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This week is all about Carmen.
If you missed the first post in this series where we covered the Habanera, you can find it here.
Bizet is best remembered for Carmen, but he wrote several other operas, some of which were incomplete or never performed. Besides Carmen, the only ones staged in his lifetime are The Pearl Fishers (1863, with a popular duet for tenor and baritone which we covered here), The Fair Maid of Perth (1867), and Djamileh (1872).
What is the Lindy Effect? The Lindy Effect is the idea that the older something is, the longer it’s likely to be around in the future. Nassim Taleb, in his book, Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder, defines it as non-perishable things like information, intellectual production, technology, or ideas. But it applies to music too.
If a book has been in print for forty years, I can expect it to be in print for another forty years. But, and that is the main difference, if it survives another decade, then it will be expected to be in print another fifty years. This, simply, as a rule, tells you why things that have been around for a long time are not “aging” like persons, but “aging” in reverse. Every year that passes without extinction doubles the additional life expectancy. This is an indicator of some robustness. The robustness of an item is proportional to its life!
Your comments also reminded me that while I believe the level of greatness that many of the singers we have profiled possess, there is still a level of subjectivity that guides why we prefer one singer or another. Or one opera or composer or even character over another. While I know I’m biased; I have always loved the character of Micaëla in Carmen. She’s in love with Don José herself, but he barely notices here. She brings a truly beautiful element to the opera.
Today we’re listening to “Je dis que rien ne m'épouvante” one of Micaëla’s arias from Act III of the French opera Carmen by Georges Bizet. We are listening to Mirella Freni sing the role of Micaëla (mee-kah-aY-lah) here.
🎧 Listen here (5 minute listen):
Everything about Micaëla’s music reveals her innocence and sweet and gentle nature. There is nothing exotic, flashy, or dangerously alluring about her (this is clear when you compare her to Carmen). She has feelings for Don José, but can not express them in the way she wants.
Micaëla’s melody line in this aria is sweet and simple. There is a shy and innocent quality to everything she sings. Who she is as a character is reflected in all of the notes that Bizet wrote for her.
Searching for Don José, Micaëla finds herself alone in the mountains. Scared, she prays for courage in this aria.
I say that nothing frightens me, I say, alas! that I could answer for myself;
But no matter how brave I am, in the depths of my heart I'm dying of fright!
Alone, in this wild place, all alone, I'm afraid,
But I'm wrong to be afraid; you will give me courage,
You will protect me, Lord.
Bizet wrote the role of Micaëla for a lyric soprano. As we’ve discussed with the title role of Carmen, there have been some great interpretations of this role too by Kiri Te Kanawa, Angela Gheorghiu, and Anna Moffo.
Again there are so many stellar moments throughout Carmen that I may need to extend into next week! I will end on this note as I think the first moments will bring a smile to your face.
Thank you again for listening and for coming along on this journey so far,
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