Dramma lirico in 4 acts by Georges Bizet
Libretto by Ludovic Halevy - Henri Meilhac
Setting: Spain in the middle of the XIX Century
A square in Seville
Background - cigarette factory and barracks
A young girl, Micaela, makes her way through the crowded square and approaches the guards, wishing to speak to her fiancé, Don José. Sergeant Morales asks her if she would like to wait, but she politely refuses: she will come back at the next changing of the guard which, judging by the sound of the military march, should be soon. The new squad files in with Don José, who confesses to Captain Zuniga that he is captivated by his sweet Micaela and is not at all interested in the lively girls who work at the cigarette factory. A bell announces the end of the shift at the factory, and the girls come out where they are met by a group of young men. Among them is Carmen, the beautiful gypsy girl who catches sight of Don José and boldly goes up to him singing. Noticing his indifference, she challenges him by dancing a vortical "Habanera" and throwing a red rose in his direction. In the meantime, Micaela comes in to give Don José news of his mother, who lives far away. When Micaela leaves Seville, promising to return soon, he pulls the rose out of his jacket and is about to throw it away when he is interrupted by the sound of a quarrel from the factory. Carmen is involved in yet another brawl and has injured a girl with a knife. Don José is given the task of restoring order and is forced to arrest Carmen. The gypsy girl, however, skilfully ensnares him with her flirting and manages to escape.
Lillas Pastia's Inn
Though Lillas Pastià's Inn is a refuge for smugglers, it is also patronized by officers, soldiers and gypsies. Carmen, along with her friends Mercedes and Frasquita, sings and dances among a group of dragoons. Her most fervent admirer is Captain Zuniga. The ''torero'' Escamillo, winner of the Granada bullfight, also arrives at the Inn and is immediately attracted to Carmen. Just as the Innkeeper is about to close, two smugglers, Duncairo and Remendado enter. They often turn to Carmen for help with their trade, but this time she refuses. She is awaiting Don José, who was arrested for having let her escape and is about to be freed. In fact, as soon as he is liberated, he hurries to the Inn, where Carmen dances for him while playing the castanets. A bugle sounding the recall interrupts the dancing. Don José prepares to do his duty and return to the barracks, but Carmen stands in his way and tries to detain him. When Zuniga comes to the Inn looking for Carmen, Don José is overcome by jealousy and assaults the captain. The smugglers intervene and threaten Zuniga with their pistols. Don José has no choice but to follow Carmen and her friends.
The Smugglers' Camp
The smugglers' camp is situated strategically among wild precipices. Don José and Carmen are alone but their conversation is not of love. Carmen is already thinking of other suitors and her indifference accentuates Don José's jealousy. She consults the cards to read her own fortune and sees death, but she defies her fate. Micaela appears, trembling with fear, looking for Don José. She calls his name, but he does not answer. Suddenly a shot is heard, the girl runs away and Escamillo appears. He has just narrowly escaped being killed by José. The two rivals draw their knives and prepare to fight. José is about to strike the torero when Carmen intervenes and restrains him. While José furiously threatens Carmen, Remendado notices Micaela, who has come to tell José that his mother is dying and wishes to see her son for the last time. Despite José's initial reluctance, they all convince him to go and in the end he leaves with Micaela.
The square in front of the Arena in Seville
The day of the bullfight the crowd is waiting in the square of Seville in front of the Arena, cheering the procession of ''toreodores'', ''alquazie'', ''picadores'', ''banderilleros'' and the ''espada'' Escamillo, who appears arm in arm with Carmen. Her friends Mercedes and Frasquita plead with her to run away, as Don José is spying on her. Carmen knows this, but nevertheless defies the danger. José appears, humbles himself before Carmen and begs her to start a new life with him. Escamillo's victory interrupts the bitter discussion. Carmen jubilantly rushes towards the torero. When José stops her, she brutally, cynically and openly declares her love for the torero. José, blinded by his mad passion, assaults her and stabs her in the heart. Carmen falls down dead. The crowd is a witness to and is shocked by the tragic scene. Don José falls on Carmen's body, cries out to her in desperation and lets himself be arrested.