Carmen Fantasies

CarmenGeorges Bizet’s Carmen remains one of opera’s most popular hits, partly because of its rich and exotic melodies. These melodies were the inspiration for Spanish violinist Pablo de Sarasate’s Carmen Fantasy, written in 1883.

In the nineteenth century, composers commonly used opera melodies as a springboard for new virtuoso showpieces. At the time, arias from Carmen and other operas would have fallen into the category of “popular music.” Franz Liszt wrote a  Fantasia on two themes from Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro and Grande Paraphrase de Concert sur le Rigoletto de Verdi among other opera-inspired pieces. Joshua Bell’s 2001 West Side Story Suite continues this tradition.

Here is Sarah Chang performing Sarasate’s Carmen Fantasy:

Waxman’s Carmen

Franz Waxman offered another take on Carmen in his score for the 1946 film Humoresque. Waxman’s Carmen Fantasie was originally written for Jascha Heifetz, but the score was recorded by a young Isaac Stern. Here is the film’s original trailer. The recordings by Heifetz and Stern are both worth hearing:

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5 Responses to Carmen Fantasies

  1. Antti Sairanen April 8, 2014 at 10:27 am #

    We should not forget Leonid Kogan’s Waxman-Carmen reading.

    • Timothy Judd April 8, 2014 at 11:15 am #

      Thank you for bringing up Kogan’s performance, Antti. Here it is:

  2. Iris Walther June 12, 2014 at 1:17 pm #

    Do you know the new album “Opera Phantasies” – Sarasate (MDG -2013)? It is very interesting with a good sound! IW

    • Timothy Judd June 12, 2014 at 2:22 pm #

      Thank you for the CD recommendation, Iris. Here is the link to the CD.

  3. Iris Walther November 3, 2015 at 8:23 am #

    Hy Timothy, there is e new realise of “Opera Phantasies” by this German violinist. It seems he has recorded all of opera fantasies from Pablo de Sarasate. That sounds great.

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