Act I

Description: In a square in Seville soldiers loiter about waiting for the women working in the cigarette factory to appear. Micaëla approaches, looking for Don José, who is about to come on duty. The factory girls come out for a smoke break; among them is Carmen, who entertains with a sultry habañera. Don José pays no attention to her. Carmen tosses a flower at him, and the women return to work. Micaëla brings Don José a letter from his mother; Don José resolves to follow his mother’s advice and marry Micaëla. A commotion breaks out in the factory. Carmen is accused of wounding one of the other women and placed in Don José’s custody. She flirts with him until he allows her to escape – for which crime he is sentenced to jail.

Act II

Description: A month later, Carmen and her friends, Frasquita and Mercédès, are at a tavern with soldiers when the famous toreador Escamillo makes a grand entrance. He sings of the glory of the bullfight and of the love that awaits the toreador. When he suavely propositions Carmen, she tells him that for the moment she is not available. Two smugglers, Le Dancaïre and Le Remendado, ask the women to join them in the mountains to help with a job. But Carmen wants to be with Don José, who has been released from jail. Carmen urges Don José to desert the army and come to the mountains with her; he is torn, but says no. When his Lieutenant, Zuniga, arrives looking for Carmen, Don José jealously attacks him. The smugglers break up the fight, but Don José now has no choice. He must leave town with the smugglers and Carmen.


Description: Before long Carmen tires of Don José’s possessiveness. When Escamillo shows up at the smugglers’ camp, confident that Carmen is now ready to become his lover, Don José picks a fight with him. Carmen and the smugglers separate them. Before leaving for Seville, Escamillo invites them all to his next bullfight. Micaëla arrives to take Don José to his dying mother. As he departs, Don José promises Carmen they’ll see one another again.

Act IV

Description: The day of Escamillo’s great bullfight, the Seville crowd cheers as he arrives with Carmen by his side. Don José accosts Carmen and begs her to leave with him. When she tells him that Escamillo is now the one she loves, Don José stabs her to death.