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30 April 2022
7:00 pm - 9:30 pm MDT
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Helena Civic Center
340 Neill Ave
Helena, MT 59601 United States
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One of the most thrilling stories ever told, Carmen pulls us into a messy love triangle between a handsome soldier, a sexy bullfighter, and the free-spirited gypsy seductress who is driven by her heart’s desires and makes men melt. Live dangerously and be tempted by one of the greatest female heroines ever – Carmen!

Allan R. Scott Conductor
Kirstin Chávez Mezzo Soprano

Carmen, a gypsy

Eric Fennell Tenor

Don José, a corporal

Leah Partridge Soprano

Micaëla, a village maiden

Ian Burns Baritone

Escamillo, a toreador

Nathan Stark Bass-Baritone

Zuñiga, a lieutenant Moralés, a corporal

Megan Pachecano Soprano

Frasquita, a gypsy

Tascha Anderson Mezzo Soprano

Mercédès, a gypsy

Miguel Angel Olivas Tenor

Le Remendado, a smuggler

Michael Gray Tenor

Le Dancaïro, a smuggler

Tom Mazanec Chorusmaster
Ironhorse Youth Music, Opera Chorus
This concert is sponsored in part by generous support from:
Guests’ appearances are sponsored by the generous support of:
Music Director & Conductor

Currently in his nineteenth season as Music Director of the Helena Symphony Orchestra & Chorale, Maestro Allan R. Scott is recognized as one of the most dynamic figures in symphonic music and opera today. He is widely noted for his outstanding musicianship, versatility, and ability to elicit top-notch performances from musicians. SYMPHONY Magazine praised Maestro Scott for his “large orchestra view,” noting that “under Scott’s leadership the quality of the orchestra’s playing has skyrocketed.”

About the Guest Artists

Kirstin Chávez is considered one of the most riveting and significant performing Mezzo Sopranos today. Making her debut with the Helena Symphony in the title role of Carmen, the combination of her magnificent voice, expansive range, dramatic intensity of her acting, and natural physical beauty make her an arresting and unique presence on the operatic stage. Ms. Chávez captures attention and acclaim and is recognized as one of the definitive interpreters of Carmen of our generation. She has performed Bizet’s iconic heroine with great success throughout the world with leading opera companies and symphonies including New National Theatre Foundation in Tokyo, Staatsoper Hannover, Opera Australia, China National Center for the Performing Arts, Central City Opera, Arizona Opera, Columbus Symphony, Opera Queensland, Welsh National Opera, Opera San Antonio, the Kaohsiung Spring Arts Festival, Orlando Philharmonic, and Oper Graz, when Opera News reported that her “Carmen” was “the ‘Carmen’ of a lifetime. With her dark, generous mezzo, earthy eroticism, volcanic spontaneity and smoldering charisma, Chávez has it all, including a superb command of French and a sense of humor.” 

Last season, Ms. Chávez returned to The Metropolitan Opera for productions of Carmen and La Traviata. Recently, Ms. Chávez launched a London tour of CARMEN INSIDE OUT. She also sang the role of “Ultima” in the world premiere of Bless Me, Ultima, a famous Chicano novel by Rudolfo Anaya, that was turned by composer Hector Armienta into an opera with Opera Southwest. Ms. Chávez continues to collect accolades for her fiery portrayals throughout Europe and Australia. Notable recent engagements have brought her to Australia in her signature role in Carmen at Opera Queensland and to Italy for The Rape of Lucretia at Maggio Musicale Fiorentino. She also made her debut with The Royal Opera House at Covent Garden in London with the role of “Marquise de Merteuil” in the contemporary opera Quartett by Luca Francesconi, which she later reprised at Opera Malmö in Sweden. After a series of successful recitals of Spanish art songs with pianist Paolo André Gualdi and guitarist Sara Gianfelici, Ms. Chávez released the album Pasión, which features the trio in a diverse sampling of Spanish song repertoire for mezzo soprano, piano, and guitar.

A Metropolitan Opera National Counsel regional finalist and prize winner in the Licia Albanese Competition, Mr. Fennell’s professional debut came when he jumped in for “Rodolfo” in Puccini’s La Bohème at the Glimmerglass Opera Festival. This opportunity led him to The New York City Opera where he sang six seasons and 13 roles. 

Mr. Fennell’s operatic highlights include “Rodolfo” in La Bohème, “The Duke of Mantua” in Rigoletto, “Alfredo” in La Traviata, “Tamino” in Die Zauberflöte, “Roberto” in Roberto Devereux, “Roméo” in Roméo et Juliette, “Don José” in Carmen, “Hoffmann” in Les Contes d’Hoffmann, “Riccardo” in Un ballo in Maschera, the title role in Don Carlo, “Camille” in Die Lustige Witwe, “Pinkerton” in Madama Butterfly, “Roberto” in Le Villi, and “The Prince” in John Adams’ A Flowering Tree, among others.

Celebrated for her “full, rich voice, captivating in its beauty and grace” (Opera Now) and her “clear, agile soprano” (Chicago Sun Times), Leah Partridge has garnered worldwide critical acclaim for her compelling interpretations of over forty of opera’s leading ladies. After her recent performances of “Diana” in Vicente Martin y Soler’s Mozart-like comedy L’Arbore di Diana in 2017, Twin Cities Arts said, “The unquestionable high point of the evening had to be Partridge’s first act aria,” and the Minneapolis Star Tribune declared, “Leah Partridge actually stopped the show.”

Ms. Partridge is making her debut with the Helena Symphony. In 2021, she performed “Violetta” in La Traviata in an outdoor, socially distanced production with Opera Naples. During the pause of 2020, Ms. Partridge continued teaching music and developed a young girls’ online singing group. In 2019 Ms. Partridge sang Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with the Fondazione Arturo Toscanini in Parma, Italy and in recitals with collaborative pianist Carol Goff at Mercer University and at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia.

Other highlights of Partridge’s career include performances of “Violetta” in La Traviata with Semper Oper Dresden, the title role in Lucia di Lammermoor with Teatro Colòn in Buenos Aires, and her Metropolitan Opera debut in 2008 followed by several return engagements and live in HD broadcasts, including Peter Grimes (First Niece) and Thaïs (La Charmeuse). She has performed in concert with the Orchestras of Atlanta, Boston Baroque, Cleveland, and San Diego Symphony and can be heard on the 2011 art song recording Finding Home with Jake Heggie and Ricky Ian Gordon.

A recent graduate of the University of British Columbia’s Diploma in Voice program, Peruvian-American baritone Ian Burns is rapidly gaining recognition for his rich tone and self-assured stage presence. The 2021-2022 season will see him makes his role debut as “Sharpless” in Madama Butterfly with the Gut Immling Festival in Germany, and with the Helena Symphony.

In the summer of 2020, Burns was prepared to cover the roles of “Herr Zeller” in The Sound of Music and “Masetto” in Don Giovanni as a member of the Glimmerglass Festival’s Young Artist Program, but he instead participated in the company’s six-week virtual festival created in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Burns first began his studies in the theater program at Valencia College in Florida, before discovering his passion for opera. The summer of 2019 saw Burns as an Apprentice Artist at Santa Fe Opera, where he covered the roles of “The Foreman” in Janáček’s Jenůfa and “The Gardener” in the world premiere of Poul Ruders’ The Thirteenth Child. He also covered “Marcello” in La Bohème, a favorite role that the baritone had previously performed at the University of North Florida (2018) and at the European Music Academy in the Czech Republic (2017). His first operatic role, also with the European Music Academy, was as “Papageno” in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte.

Praised by the Washington Post for his voice of “unearthly power,” and the San Jose Mercury News as a “natural comic actor,” the award-winning bass-baritone Nathan Stark has performed on opera, concert, and recital stages throughout United States, Europe, and China. This performance marks his debut with the Helena Symphony. Mr. Stark has performed over 50 professional roles with opera houses throughout North America, including the Metropolitan Opera, Cincinnati Opera, Arizona Opera, Atlanta Opera, Virginia Opera and Opera San José. Some of his noted operatic roles have included “Mustafà” in L’Italiana in Algeri, both “Don Basilio” and “Don Bartolo” in Il Barbiere di Siviglia, “Leporello” and “il Commendatore” in Don Giovanni, “Monterone” and “Sparafucile” in Rigoletto, “Colline” in La Bohème, “Banquo” in Macbeth, and “Bottom” in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  Stark has performed as a concert soloist with the Symphony Orchestras of Boston, Detroit, Atlanta, Cincinnati, Holland, and San Diego, as well as with the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra, Long Beach Symphony, and Chicago Philharmonic. Mr. Stark has given recitals throughout the United States and Germany, concerts at the Great Wall of China, the U.S. Colombian Embassy, U.S. French Embassy, U.S. Austrian Embassy, and the Washington National Cathedral. In 2005 he was chosen to be the featured soloist for the nationally televised opening ceremonies of the Air Force One exhibit at the Ronald Reagan Library for former First Ladies Laura Bush and Nancy Reagan, members of the United States Senate and Congress, and President George W. Bush. He has been a recipient of numerous awards and was the 2006 San Diego District winner of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Competition.
Returning to the Helena Symphony, Soprano Megan Pachecano has performed with the Metropolitan Opera, Caramoor International Music Festival, Opera New Jersey, Salt Marsh Opera, Opera Company of Middlebury, St. Petersburg Opera, Opera in Williamsburg, New Rochelle Opera, Opera Theater of Connecticut at the Sanibel Music Festival, and Orchestra of New Spain at the Dallas Symphony Orchestra’s Soluna Festival. Recent performances by Ms. Pachecano include “Farinelli’s Trainer” in Little and Vavrek’s Vinkensport or The Finch Opera with Opera Saratoga, “Echo” in R. Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxo with Austin Opera, “Fiordiligi” in Mozart’s Così fan tutte with LoftOpera, and “Anne Page” in Williams’ Sir John in Love with Odyssey Opera. Other role highlights are “Adina” in L’elisir d’amore, “Norina” in Don Pasquale, “Susanna” in Le nozze di Figaro, “Cunegonde” in Candide, and “Cinderella” in Into the Woods. 

She will next reprise the role of “Valencienne” in The Merry Widow with Musica Viva Hong Kong, and returns to Odyssey Opera to sing the lead role of “Lady Jane Grey” in the World Premiere of Arnold Rosner’s The Chronicle of Nine in a co-production and recording with Boston Modern Orchestra Project. Ms. Pachecano was a soloist on the Naxos recording of American Choral Music and created the role of “Elizabeth” on the cast album of Melillo’s Son of the Storm. She presented a solo cabaret recital with the Odeon Theater’s concert series and was a guest artist at Colorado State University, performing a duet art song recital entitled The Tides of Love.

Praised by Opera News as “a warm, elegant mezzo,” Tascha Anderson originally hails from Helena, Montana. A versatile singer in both opera and concert repertoire, Ms. Anderson recently made her debut with Intermountain Opera Bozeman, in a virtual concert entitled Into the Light, in collaboration with Baroque Music Montana, where she sang excerpts from Scarlatti’s La Primavera, and several art songs by American composers. Ms. Anderson has also appeared with the Minnesota Bach Ensemble as the alto soloist in BWV 88, and the alto soloist in Respighi’s Il tramonto with Boston’s Symphony Nova. In 2020, Ms. Anderson made her debut with the Oratorio Society of Richmond in Richmond, VA, portraying the role of “Daniel” in a concert version of Handel’s Susanna. 

With an extensive background in professional dance training, Ms. Anderson is equally comfortable in the Musical Theatre repertoire. She has made appearances as “Petra” in A Little Night Music both “Florinda” and “the Stepmother” in Into the Woods, “Eulalie Mackecknie Shinn” in The Music Man, “Mrs. Winthrop” in The Secret Garden, and has appeared as a featured ensemble dancer in many others.

Tenor Miguel Angel Olivas makes his debut with the Helena Symphony for this Season’s performance of Bizet’s Carmen. Hailing from California where he studied under Sandra Bengochea and Christopher Bengochea, Mr. Olivas continues his vocal studies at the University of Montana. He has performed with Opera San Jose and appeared in productions of Mozart’s Idomeneo and Mechem’s The Rivals. Mr. Olivas has also participated in many competitions where he won “Singer of the Year,” and “Concerto-Aria competition” in 2017. Recently he performed with Opera Nova in Billings as “Chrysodule Babylas” in A Musical Night at the Choufleuri’s.

Unafraid to reshape traditional comprimario characters into something twistedly dark or entirely new, Michael Gray is not your typical tenor. Critics describe Mr. Gray’s interpretations as, “dastardly, very creepy, slyly lustful, Rhett Butler-esque, and impressively athletic.” 

In addition to performing as a member of the Helena Symphony Chorale, Mr. Gray has recently appeared as a soloist with Helena Symphony, as well as with Intermountain Opera Bozeman. He has performed with various ensembles and in many venues, including Bozeman Arts –Live!, The Reston Chorale (Washington D.C, VA.), The Italian Embassy (Washington D.C.), Pickens Concert Choir (SC), Cantanti PROJECT (NY), Palmetto Opera (SC), Capitol Opera (VA), Opera Carolina (NC), South Carolina Bach Choir, and has also performed abroad with Teatro Lirico d’Europa and the Asolo Song Festival in Venice, Italy.

Michael has performed as “Jasper” in The Mystery of Edwin Drood, “First Elder” in Handel’s Susanna, as “Don José” in Carmen, “Merlin” in Camelot, “Rinuccio” in Gianni Schicchi, “Ferrando” in Mozart’s Così fan tutte, and “Hyllus” in Handel’s Hercules, among other roles. He was the recipient of Opera Susquehanna’s Professional Fellowship Award, and nominated for an Artsie Award (VA).

Keeping You Safe in the Concert Hall

Due to the recent increase in COVID-19 cases and new variants emerging in Lewis and Clark County and the United States, the Helena Symphony will take necessary precautions to keep our musicians, staff, and audience protected. The Helena Symphony will continue to follow CDC guidelines throughout Season 67 and monitor the daily transmission rates within our county. When the transmission rate is high or substantial, audience members will be required to wear a mask while in the concert hall. On concert nights when the transmission is moderate or low, individuals will be encouraged to wear a mask, but are not required to do so.

Each member of the Helena Symphony Orchestra & Chorale will be tested prior to rehearsals and prior to each concert. This will ensure each musician present on stage is negative for COVID-19. The Helena Symphony will continue to work closely with the county health department and the city of Helena throughout the Season to ensure the safety of our musicians, staff, and audience. If you have questions about how the Helena Symphony will be adapting to the evolving COVID-19 situation this Season, please call our office at 406.442.1860.

About the Program – By Allan R. Scott ©

Parallel Events / 1875

Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 premieres

Degas paints Place de la Concorde

California Gold Rush

Poet Robert Frost and composer Maurice Ravel are born

The Billy McGeorge Gang attacks and robs settlers in Yankee Hill, Colorado

First Kentucky Derby


Born: Paris, France, 25 October 1838
Died: Bougival, France, 3 June 1875

Carmen is scored for piccolo, two flutes, two oboes, English horn, two clarinets, two bassoons, four horns, two trumpets, three trombones, timpani, triangle, cymbals, bass drum, snare drum, tambourine, harp, divided strings, three soprano, mezzo soprano, three tenor, two baritone, and bass solos, divided chorus, and several speaking roles.
Duration: 167 minutes

Bizet never saw Carmen become one of the most popular and most performed operas. He died on the eve of the 31st performance of the opera from a long-time illness relating to a throat infection and heart failure, and not from a broken heart caused by the failure of his opera as some originally believed. Bizet was only 36 years old.

Despite the fact that Bizet’s Carmen is one of the most performed operas sitting along side Puccini’s La Bohème, Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro, and Verdi’s La Traviata, the original reception of Carmen was in many ways a failure. Perhaps at the time of the premiere of Carmen (1875) much of the public was alienated by the true sense of shocking realism of the story, where a new type of operatic heroine was introduced. Typical audiences who expected stereotypes and happy endings were confronted by a promiscuous gypsy girl whose intoxicating dramatic story leads irresistibly to the climax of her being murdered. 

Bizet’s music also portrays a simple directness capturing Carmen’s fatalism and courage as well as Don José’s gradual degeneration. This musical truthfulness seemed to also offend the opera’s first audiences in Paris.

Set in the exotic Spanish city of Seville at the beginning of the nineteenth century and based on the novel by Prosper Mérimée, Carmen was adapted for the stage by French librettists Ludovic Halévy and Henri Meilhac. At the center of the story is Carmen’s seduction of a young corporal, Don José, who tosses aside the love of the more respectable Micaëla in favor of the alluring Carmen. Carmen eventually abandons her love for Don José and turns her attention to the dashing bullfighter Escamillo. Carmen’s scornful taunts eventually bring Don José to a jealous rage, and he stabs her to death.

 Born to a very musical family, Bizet entered the Paris Conservatory at the young age of nine and later won the coveted compositional award of the Grand Prix de Rome. Most of Bizet’s compositional thoughts were aimed at imitating his mentor, Charles Gounod; however, Bizet’s style proved to be far more advanced. 

Much of Bizet’s career proved to be a series of a few mediocre successes coupled with several failures. His musical gifts and extraordinary insights seemed to almost prevent him from completing many projects. In addition to Carmen, Bizet composed a symphony, twelve works for piano duet titled Jeux d’enfants, a one-act opera (Djamileh), incidental music to the play L’Arlesienne, and the operas The Fair Maid of Perth, The Pearl Fishers, and several other lesser known operas.

With Carmen, Bizet makes effective use of Spanish rhythms and melodic turns, especially with the heroine herself. Memorable moments are known to audiences who have never seen Carmen, such as the “Habañera” which exotically captures the seductive Carmen as she sings about the nature of love and her creed of freedom – living, loving, and dying as she chooses, while the soldiers become hypnotized by the sexy, almost smoky vocal range of Carmen’s first appearance.

From the softer and gentler movements for soprano Micaëla to the brassier, machismo music associated with Escamillo and the bullfight, Bizet constantly evokes the eroticism of Spain and creates a masterpiece of local color and warmth. The brilliance of Carmen not only rests with Bizet’s score, but also with the concept and dramatic elements of how the composer and librettists presented the work. Carmen was extremely innovative in its drama: no longer was French opera confined to one-dimensional comic characters and in many ways the two principal characters, Carmen and José, are some of the most profound in all of operative literature. Don José transforms from an exemplary soldier and faithful lover to almost an obsessed lunatic. In many ways Carmen symbolizes not only the exotic land of Spain, but also represents a toreador luring the bulls to their own demise. Later she transforms into the bull herself and is in a sense sacrificed exactly when the bull is being killed. 

Musically, the three highlights between Carmen and José are quite symbolic. The three duets suggest a development and destruction of their relationship: seduction, conflict, and finally, resolution, as Carmen’s death is not only predicted throughout the opera but it is necessary for her own completion. Contrary to most love duets, Carmen and José’s voices never truly become one, in fact, they almost never sing together. 

While not as dramatically developed as Carmen and José, Micaëla, Escamillo, and Zuñiga (José’s superior officer, who also attempts to pursue Carmen) also seem to represent important dramatic structures of the opera. Micaëla represents José’s past, his mother, and even his small village, whereas, Zuñiga represents Carmen’s past, José her present, and Escamillo her future. Musically, Micaëla’s duet with José and her aria almost seem right out of a Gounod opera (Bizet’s teacher) where Escamillo’s toreador solo comes from the opera buffa (comic opera) tradition. Bizet knew that the toreador song would be popular, but he personally despised it, saying “They want their trash, and they will get it.”

While the score is obviously French, Bizet elegantly works elements of Spanish music into Carmen, such as a gypsy song, some flamenco dancing, and the famous “Habañera” (of which Bizet made over ten revisions). Giving into Wagner’s influence over nineteenth century operas, Bizet makes the orchestra as important as the singers (which several French critics disliked) and uses Wagner’s concept of leitmotif where certain musical themes are associated with specific characters and ideas. Carmen and her death are represented immediately after the overture to the opera with a slow, mysterious, and haunting melody that appears throughout the four acts. In addition to this fate motif, Carmen’s influence over José is captured by a beautifully tragic theme that also is used frequently.

The premiere production was indeed a risky venture for the venerable Opéra-Comique in 1875. In spite of his training at one of the most respected conservatories and winning the most coveted prize for composition in all of Europe, Bizet was not a well-established composer. The Opéra-Comique in Paris had become a venue that attracted families and a conservative crowd accustomed to sentimentality, moral plots, happy endings, and elements of the supernatural and exotic. In many ways Carmen met the expectations of the exotic, but the realism, amoral characters, tragic ending, and absence of fantasy put off much of the audience and critics. Even the elements of the exotic Seville and lead character, who exemplified a bold, reckless, and dangerous female, were not appealing. When the subject of Carmen was proposed to the theatre one of the directors of the company resigned in protest. A friend of one of the librettists commented “I won’t mince words. Carmen is a flop, a disaster! It will never play more than twenty times.” 

Carmen was not well-received in Paris nor during Bizet’s lifetime; however, when the opera premiered in Vienna, it quickly became part of standard repertoire. Bizet’s score not only has remained one of the most popular operas, but a number of other composers have used themes from Bizet’s score as the basis for their own works: Sarasate’s Carmen Fantasy for violin and orchestra, film composer Franz Waxman’s Carmen Fantasie, and pianist Vladimir Horowitz’s Variations on a theme from Carmen for solo piano. 

In this last work of Bizet’s, Carmen became the musical representation that linked Bizet as the true bridge between Berlioz and Debussy. His death at the young age of 36 (just after the thirtieth performance of Carmen) is today believed to be the greatest single blow to French music in the nineteenth century. In many ways it seems a necessity and less of a tragedy for the femme fatale in the opera to die, as the real tragedy and conclusion of the opera is perhaps Bizet’s death so suddenly and so young, and never able to see the success of his greatest work.



Music by Georges Bizet
Libretto by Henri Meilhac & Ludovic Halévy
Based on the Novel by Prosper Mérimée

Outside the cigarette factory, soldiers pass away the time. Micaëla, a peasant girl from Navarre, asks the soldiers if they know Don José. Micaëla is told that Don José is a corporal in another platoon expected shortly to relieve the present guard. Avoiding the soldiers’ invitation to step inside the guardroom, Micaëla politely leaves and returns when Don José arrives. A trumpet call heralds the approach not only of the relief guard, but also of a gang of street urchins imitating the soldiers’ drill (“Avec la garde montante”). During the change of the guard, Don José is informed that a girl is looking for him. Zuñiga, the lieutenant in command of the new guard, questions Corporal José about the tobacco factory. A stranger in Seville, Zuñiga is apprehensive of the local peasants.

The factory bell rings and the men of Seville gather round the women workers coming out of the cigarette factory as they return after their lunch break. The gypsy Carmen is awaited with anticipation. When the men gather round her, Carmen tells them love obeys no known laws, airing her philosophy of life: love is a wild bird that cannot be tamed (Habañera: “L’amour est un oiseau rebelle”). Only one man pays no attention to her - Don José. Carmen lures him with a flower as if to select him as her next love. The women go back into the factory and the crowd disperses.

Micaëla returns, bringing news of José’s mother, who has sent Micaëla to give José a letter (“Parle-moi de ma mère”). Feeling that his mother is protecting him from afar, José reads the letter from his mother asking José to marry Micaëla. At the moment that José decides to obey his mother’s wishes, a fight is heard from within the factory. The girls run out of the factory with conflicting accounts of what has occurred, but it is certain that Carmen and one of her fellow workers quarreled and that the other girl was wounded. Carmen, led out by José, refuses to answer any of Zuñiga’s questions. José is ordered to tie Carmen up and take her to prison. Carmen entices José to go dancing at Lillas Pastia’s tavern outside the walls of Seville (Séguedille: “Près des remparts de Séville”). Mesmerized by Carmen, José agrees to help her escape. He unties the rope and, as they leave for prison, Carmen slips away. Don José is arrested and the current closes setting the stage for soon to be fatale love affair.

A month later, Carmen and her gypsy friends Frasquita and Mercédès sing and dance for Zuñiga and other officers (“Les tringles des sistres tintaient”). Zuñiga tells Carmen that José has been released this very day. A procession in honor of the bullfighter Escamillo is heard, and Escamillo is invited to the tavern, where he describes the excitements of his profession, in particular the amorous rewards that follow a successful bullfight (Toreador’s Song: “Votre toast”). Escamillo then propositions Carmen, but she replies that she is engaged for the moment. Escamillo says he will wait. Carmen refuses to leave with Zuñiga, who promises to return.

As people leave the tavern, smugglers Dancaïre and Remendado enter. They have business in hand for which their regular female accomplices are essential (“Nous avons en tête une affaire”). Frasquita and Mercédès are game, but Carmen refuses to leave Seville as she says she is in love. Her friends are incredulous. José is heard in the distance (“Dragon d’Alcala”) and the others depart, leaving Carmen alone with José. When Carmen tells José that she has been dancing for his officers, José gets jealous, so Carmen agrees to entertain José alone (“Je vais danser en votre honneur”). Hearing the military trumpets in the distance, José says that he must return to the barracks. Stupefied, Carmen mocks him, but he answers by producing the flower she gave him and telling her how its faded scent sustained his love during the long weeks in prison (“La fleur que tu m’avais jetée”). Carmen insists that José does not love her and if he did he would desert his military post and join her in a life of freedom in the mountains. Torn with doubts, José finally refuses and Carmen dismisses him contemptuously. As José leaves, Zuñiga bursts in and José and Zuñiga begin to fight. The smugglers return, separate the two fighting soldiers and Zuñiga is restrained (“Bel officier”). José now has no choice but to desert the military and join the smugglers. Carmen and José celebrate their union and new life together.

The gypsy gang enters with contraband and pauses for a brief rest while Dancaïre and Remendado go on a reconnaissance mission. Carmen and José quarrel, and José gazes regretfully down to the valley where his mother is living. Carmen taunts José to return to his mother. Carmen, Frasquita, and Mercédès look to fate with their tarot cards: Frasquita and Mercédès foresee rich and gallant lovers, but Carmen’s cards spell death, for her and for José. Carmen accepts the prophecy (“En vain pour éviter les réponses amères”). 

Remendado and Dancaïre return announcing that customs officers are guarding the pass: Carmen, Frasquita, and Mercédès know how to deal with them (“Quant au douanier”). As the gypsy gang leaves, Micaëla appears, led by a guide. Micaëla says that she fears nothing so much as meeting the woman who has turned the man she once loved into a criminal (“Je dis que rien ne m’épouvante”), but, hearing voices, Micaëla hides. It is José questioning an intruder, who turns out to be Escamillo (“Je suis Escamillo”). When Escamillo refers to the soldier whom Carmen once loved, José reveals himself and the two fight. Carmen enters and breaks up José and Escamillo. Escamillo invites everyone, especially Carmen, to be his guests at the next bullfight in Seville. José is at the end of his tether. Micaëla is discovered, and begs José to go with her to his mother but he furiously refuses (“Dût-il m’en couter la vie”), until Micaëla reveals that his mother is dying. Leaving with Micaëla, José promises, and almost threatens, Carmen that they will meet again. As José and Micaëla leave, Escamillo is heard singing in the distance.

The crowds prepare to enter the arena to see the fight. Carmen and Escamillo declare their love for one another (“Si tu m’aimes”) and Frasquita and Mercédès warn Carmen that José has been seen in the crowd. Carmen says that she is not afraid, as José enters and implores Carmen to forget the past and start a new life with him. She tells him calmly that everything between them is over and that she will never return to him: she was born free and she will die free. While the crowd in the arena is heard cheering Escamillo, José tries to prevent Carmen from joining her new lover. In anger Carmen removes the ring that José once gave her and throws it, and, as fate suggested, José stabs her. Holding Carmen’s body in despair, José mourns the loss of the woman he loved.