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2.110543 - MUSICAL JOURNEY (A) - SPAIN: A Musical Tour of Seville (NTSC)
A Musical Tour of Seville, Spain
Bull-fighting has a long history and many famous fighters have come from Seville. A poster advertises the important Easter Feria.
Music Bizet: Carmen Suite No. 1 – I. Prelude
Based on a novel by Prosper Mérimée, Bizet’s opera Carmen is set in Seville around the year 1830. It deals with the love and jealousy of the soldier Don José, who is lured away from his duty and his beloved Micaëla by the gypsy factory-girl Carmen, whom he allows to escape from custody. He is later induced to join the smugglers with whom Carmen is associated, but is driven wild by jealousy. This comes to a head when Carmen makes clear her preference for the bullfighter Escamillo. The last act, outside the bull-ring in Seville, brings Escamillo to the arena, accompanied by Carmen, there stabbed to death by Don José, who has been awaiting her arrival. The most famous of Bizet’s operas, with its exotic Spanish setting, Carmen introduced a note of realism into opera that proved unacceptable to many who saw the first performances. Objection was taken to the wild and immoral behaviour of Carmen, the chorus of cigarette factory-girls and their smoking and the final murder of Carmen on the stage. Suite No. 1 starts with a Prélude that, with its Fate theme, foreshadows something of the drama to come, coupled with allusions to the Toreador’s song.
Landscape near Seville
Bulls are seen in the relative peace of the countryside, where they are bred for the corrida.
Music Bizet: Carmen Suite No. 1 – II. Aragonaise
The Aragonaise, its melody borrowed from a contemporary Spanish composer, serves as an entr’acte to Act IV, as crowds gather before the Maestranza arena.
Plaza de América
The Plaza de América is in the María Luisa Park and dates from 1929, when the Spanish-American Exhibition was held in Seville. The white pigeons, a rare breed, descend from birds presented by The Philippines for the occasion.
Music Bizet: Carmen Suite No. 1 – III. Intermezzo
The Intermezzo is taken from the entr’acte to Act III, as the scene changes from Don José’s desertion in Seville to the countryside where the smugglers gather.
Parks in Seville offer places of rest and recreation. The María Luisa Park was given to the city in 1893 by María Luisa of Orleans, originally gardens in English style, but redesigned for the Spanish-American Exhibition of 1929.
Music Bizet: Carmen Suite No. 1 – IV. Seguidilla
The Seguidilla is the dance with which Carmen first seduced Don José, arranging, as she sings, a meeting-place where they may be together, once he has helped her escape from custody.
Originally founded as a mosque, Seville Cathedral, the largest Gothic building in the world, dates largely from the 15th century. Exterior ornamentation includes a nativity scene in bas-relief and a number of grotesque gargoyles.
Music Bizet: Carmen Suite No. 1 – V. Les dragons de Alcala
The Dragoons of Alcala is the marching-song of Don José’s regiment, heard as an entr’acte after Act I, as Don José allows Carmen to escape from arrest.
A matador is seen, rehearsing his movements in the arena in Seville.
Music Bizet: Carmen Suite No. 1 – VI. Marche du toréador
The Toreador’s March is heard as the opera begins, a bold evocation of the mood of the bullfight, heard again in the final act, as spectators flock to the corrida.
Spectators and hooded penitents gather for the Seville Easter Procession. This is one of several such events from Palm Sunday onwards, with a statue of Our Lady carried aloft, an object of veneration.
Music Bizet: Carmen Suite No. 2 – I. Marche des contrabandiers
The Carmen Suite No. 2 starts with the Smugglers’ March, as Carmen’s friends make their way up to the mountains.
The parks of Seville offer places of recreation and avenues where the scenery can be admired from the comfort of a horse-drawn carriage.
Music Bizet: Carmen Suite No. 2 – II. Habanera
The famous Habanera introduces Carmen herself, as she sings of the power of love.
Spanish Dancer and Night Scene
The city takes on a new appearance as darkness falls, with major public buildings standing out, illuminated.
Music Bizet: Carmen Suite No. 2 – III. Nocturne
The Nocturne is taken from Micaëla’s apprehensive song, as she approaches the smugglers’ encampment, in search of her beloved Don José.
A Toreador Prepares
A young toreador is seen donning the costume in which he will face bulls in the arena.
Music Bizet: Carmen Suite No. 2 – IV. Chanson du toréador
The Toreador’s Song introduces Escamillo, the toreador, in the second act of the opera, a song in which he boasts of the glories of his profession.
Soldiers are seen, helping to train horses. The Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art, near Seville, enjoys particular fame, with its dancing horses.
Music Bizet: Carmen Suite No. 2 – V. Garde montant
Mounting Guard is taken from the changing of the guard in Act I, an operation in which a gang of urchins happily joins.
Street Scenes and Reminiscences
The busy streets of Seville are seen, with cafés and shops. The scene continues with reminiscences of Seville, the young toreador in his traje de luces (suit of lights) and a Spanish dancer, with a glimpse of a bull in the countryside.
Music Bizet: Carmen Suite No. 2 – VI. Danse bohémienne
The Gypsy Dance which ends the Second Carmen Suite is heard in Act II of the opera, at an inn where Carmen’s gypsy friends join together to entertain the soldiers.
The alleys and lanes of the old city are explored, with glimpses of interiors and the façades of public buildings and traditional private houses.
Music Granados: Spanish Dance No. 2
Enrique Granados was born in Lérida in 1867 and at first earned his living as a café pianist, before moving to Paris in 1887. He published his Spanish Dances, possibly written during his years in Paris, singly until 1890, winning himself thereby an international reputation. He died in 1916 when the English ship in which he was sailing, on a return journey from America, where his new opera Goyescas had been performed, was torpedoed by a German submarine. Dance No. 2, here aptly arranged for guitar and orchestra, is an Orientale, dedicated to Julián Martí. Its simple plaintive and somewhat exotic melody recalls Arab music.
María Luisa Park and Plaza de España
The Plaza de España was built for the Spanish-American Exhibition of 1929. It includes a series of tiled alcoves celebrating the various provinces of Spain. Buildings seen include the old Fabrica de Tabacos, where Carmen might be supposed to have worked. It now houses the University.
Music Granados: Spanish Dance No. 8
Dance No. 8, an Asturiana or Sardana, offers a pleasing rhythmic swing.
Alcázar and Giralda
The Alcázar recalls the period of Moorish domination. The building was for centuries the residence of Spanish kings, who had it restored with the help of Moorish architects. The Giralda, some 350 feet high, towers over the cathedral. It was originally a minaret of the mosque on this site. The Patio de los aranjos (Patio of the Oranges) was a courtyard for the mosque. From the Giralda a panorama of the city can be seen. The view of Seville ends with a glimpse of the Guadalquivir, a river that was an important source of prosperity for the city.
Music Granados: Spanish Dance No. 11
Orientalism returns in Danza No. 11, Arabesca, marked Largo a piacere – Andante con moto.
Bizet: ‘Carmen’ Suites. Slovak State Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Anthony Bramall [Naxos 8.550061]
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