Text by Hart Crane. Used with permission of Liveright Publishing Corporation.
Pablo de Sarasateʼs Carmen Fantasy is unique among Carmen fantasies in that it uses only music that Bizetʼs Carmen herself sings. This idea of the violinist-become-Carmen was as important to me as Sarasateʼs notes (which I use freely): my violinist is Carmen, my mezzo-soprano one of her many admirers.
Hart Craneʼs “Carmen de Boheme” was written when he was still a teenager, and its excesses may be attributed to his youth, but they create an over-the top atmosphere in which Carmen, now careworn and life-weary, “flaunts through the gloom” post-performance at some gaudy theater, “bright peacocks” adorning the walls.
The Sarasate and Crane are tricky, expressively: Bizetʼs “exoticism,” which Sarasate embraces, today seems ethnically stereotypical, and one struggles to take this technical showpiece seriously. As for Craneʼs Carmen: is she a great performer still to be admired, or an aging nobody who should have hung it up long ago?