Carmen is an opera that involves seduction, passion, infidelity, jealousy and murder. It was first performed at the Opéra-Comique in Paris on 3 March 1875. It was considered quite scandalous for its time, and the reviews and audience reactions were far from positive. In fact, the opera was more popular overseas. and it wasn't revived in Paris until 1883, eight years after its initial release.
On 13 May 1975 Monaco issued a set of four stamps to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the premiere of the opera, Carmen. This beautiful set of stamps was designed and engraved by Albert Decaris. Each stamp represents one of the four Acts of the opera. In the last couple of blogs we were introduced to Carmen with an in-depth look at Act I and Act II of the opera and their related stamps. Click HERE to read about Act I. And HERE for Act II.
Act II ended with Carmen, José, and a couple of smugglers fleeing the Inn together to get away from the senior officer with whom José had just fought. So what will happen to the runaways...?
The lights come on. We are deep in the wilds of the mountains near Seville, Spain c. 1920. It is night time.
Carmen, a couple of her friends, José, and the smugglers are travelling further into the mountains. At some point during the journey, Carmen has become bored with the company of José. Hoping to be rid of him she starts taunting him and telling him to go back to the village. But he knows he can't. After fighting a superior officer, he would be charged immediately.
They find a spot to hide. Carmen's friends, Frasquita and Mercédès, pull out a set of fortune-telling cards to kill some time. Carmen joins them, they read her fortune. Carmen is stunned when they tell her that the cards foresee hers and José's deaths. Watching the women, the smugglers get an idea. They decide to take the women down into the town to the customs officials and have them use their feminine charms on them in order to move their contraband. They leave José there alone with the stash.
Not long after, José's sweetheart, Micaela (who we met in Act I), comes into the mountains. She spots José before he sees her. She is about to approach him when she hears him fire his gun. She hides behind some rocks, thinking he might be shooting at her. But she soon finds out that he actually is shooting at a man approaching. The man resolves from the shadows. It is Escamillo, the toreador. José, recognising the toreador, relaxes his guard and the two start chatting.
However, the atmosphere soon becomes tense when Escamillo starts talking about a woman he has fallen for, a woman named, Carmen. And worse still Escamillo says that she seems infatuated with some common soldier. He has no idea the soldier is José! Enraged, José challenges him to a knife fight. But Escamillo merely defends himself and doesn't fight back. Now José is really annoyed! He comes at the bullfighter again. Escamillo manages to get the better of him, but lets him go. He says he fights bulls not men! José attacks him for a third time. This time Escamillo's knife breaks. José has a chance...
...but then Carmen reappears with the smugglers. Escamillo takes the opportunity to leave. But before he does, he invites Carmen and the smugglers to his next bullfight in Seville. As Escamillo departs, Micaela is spotted hiding in the rocks. She comes out and begs José to return home with her as his mother is very sick. Carmen mocks him, telling him to run along home. After some more begging by Micaela, José agrees to go, but he promises Carmen he will return to her.
As José starts to walk off, the voice of Escamillo singing the toreador song can be heard. Carmen's eyes light up and she makes to dash off to find him. But José turns around and stops her from leaving...
Time for the Act III stamp.
In this lovely engraving Decaris has decided to capture the moment when Micaela starts begging José to return home with her. Micaela's dress has been picked out n stunning green. And the sash around José's waist is also green, illustrating their connection.
In this image we can clearly see José's reluctance to leave with Micaela by his posture. And to the left we see Carmen, standing there, mocking him. If you look closely you see the rose José gave her between her breasts. Perhaps taunting José. Again, a splendid composition!
Until next time...