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Carmen Essay

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CARMEN ESSAY - musical examples/more quotes/cut out heaps of writing!!

INTRO and Conclusion

The fascination with exoticism was more and more prevalent within romantic compositions as there was an increased yearning for far off lands within the composer's imagination. 'Composers of such works were not terribly interested in authenticity; their primary concern was to create a picturesque atmosphere that would appeal to audiences.'(Machlis p.190) Bizet romanticized gypsy culture in his opera and through the character, 'Carmen'. The libretto gives off ideas in relation to the emerging theme of 'naturalism', where much focus was given to the working class and their suffering. Carmen and the other gypsies don't have that middle class virtue. 'But they are seen against the exotic allure of Spain and Bizet's music invests them with a human dignity.' (Machlis192) In much of the art, music and literature of the 19th century the female gypsy, in particular was characterized and stereotyped as free-spirited, strong, deviant, demanding, sexually arousing, alluring and dismissive. This romantic construct of the Gypsy woman may be viewed as completely opposite to the proper, controlled and chaste, submissive woman held as the Victorian, European ideal. These descriptions are likened to the characters of Carmen in contrast to Micaela. 'Carmen' is all about women, especially women with exotic qualities who challenge the traditional morale. The women in 'Carmen' are seen not as passive but as active players in the social game. Carmen forever sings about freedom and love with no limits. 'The freedom to travel, the freedom to exist - Carmen fights for the right to live.'(Feminist endings) The oriental fascination with the forbidden and taboo world of the gypsy other in music is characterized by the spontaneous dance-like rhythms, melodies and orchestration. Carmen's most famous aria, 'Habanera' in which she tells of her conception of love, is a borrowed Cuban dance form, from Havana exhibiting Spanish flounces and likened to the 'Tango' dance style. The duple metre slow dance, lined with graceful dotted rhythms involves a lot of body movement and expression, characteristic of the gypsy. 'Seguidilla' also demonstrates the importance of dance to the gypsy culture, set in a typical Ñ* rhythm and sung to a poetic verse form. The combination of guitar-like accompaniment, pizzicato on the strings laced with ornaments and triplets, gives the piece character and cheek, as Carmen taunts Don Jose to fall for her charms. The accelerating gypsy dance opening Act 2 uses dissonances and sliding harmonies, creating that colour and richness typical of the exotic influence. In 'Chanson Boheme', the use of woodwinds and staccato strings adds tension to the whirling gypsy dance being created. The eventual increased tempo accelerates a folk-like feel and an excitement generated by the musical genius.

Women were seen as being the object of affection and of desire. Gypsy women, especially Carmen, knew that her seduction was a tool used to gain freedom. Carmen recognized the power she had with men and exactly how she could use her sexual prowess to get what she wanted. Women in the 19th century were ideally conservative and conventional. Carmen rejects this notion and boldly exposes herself to the male gaze. Much like Thackeray's 19th century novel, 'Vanity Fair', Becky Sharp uses her sexual allure to promote herself in society and to gain that power and control she would otherwise never have. Both Carmen and Becky show how sexuality was used in the 19th century as to tool to reaching freedom and acceptance. Women assume more of a dramatic and musical role in 'Carmen'. The chorus and gypsy roles add to the feminine allure that permeates throughout the opera. (Chorus number) Clement discusses that Carmen is, 'the image, foreign and doomed of a woman who refuses masculine yokes and who must pay for it with her life'. (Clement) The allure is too great for Don Jose who kills her despite his obsession with her., refusing to submit to any man who attempts to control her life. Carmen is both, 'menacing and tame, a wolf and your domestic cat; in her black gypsy eyes, voluptuous and fierce...'

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