Musical Borrowing
An Annotated Bibliography

Individual record

[+] Beardsley, Theodore. "The Spanish Musical Sources of Bizet's Carmen." Inter-American Music Review 10, no. 2 (Spring/Summer 1989): 143-46.

Before composing Carmen, Bizet had already shown strong interest in Spanish music. His adaptation of Spanish music in his opera Don Quichotte and symphonic ode Vasco de Gama is evident. The experience of a school-day friendship with Pablo Sarasate provided him an easy channel to Spanish sources. In Carmen, Bizet borrowed genuine Spanish folksongs, local rhythms, and tunes composed by Spanish composers Sebastián Yradier and Manuel Garcia. The pieces of Spanish origin in Carmen include the famous "Habañera"; Carmen's aria "Séguidille, séguidille, séguidilla," and "Choeur des gamins" in Act I; Carmen's aria "Chanson bohème," and "Toreador Song" in Act II; and both of the preludes to Act III and IV. The most interesting borrowing is Carmen's leitmotif, the Fate theme, which is used repeatedly throughout the opera in two patterns, one for Carmen, and the other for Don José. This theme is derived from an Andalusian Saeta (flamenco music). Bizet's familiarity with authentic Spanish music is underestimated, and the extent of Spanish influence on the score of Carmen is more complex than usually recognized.

Works: Bizet: Carmen.

Index Classifications: 1800s

Contributed by: Tong Cheng Blackburn

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