Date Thesis Awarded

5-2014

Document Type

Honors Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelors of Arts (BA)

Department

Modern Languages

Advisor

Robert A. St. Clair

Committee Member

James I. Armstrong

Committee Member

Magali Compan

Abstract

Through investigative research, this thesis examines the transition from Alfred de Musset’s poem Namouna (1832) and Prosper Mérimée’s novella Carmen (1845) to the operas by Georges Bizet that they inspired (Djamileh [1872] and Carmen [1875], respectively). When the two literary works were published, not much controversy ensued over them or their exotic subject matter. Nearly half a century later, however, the debuts of both of Bizet’s operas were poorly received, to say the least. I highlight what changed between the works, not just structurally, but contextually as well. The operas obviously were altered vastly in format during their transition from literary work, but they were also presented to a different audience than their sources, and in a different social and political climate. I believe a combination of change in medium and change in historical atmosphere caused Bizet’s works (with the topics mostly unchanged) to be accepted much less readily than their earlier textual counterparts, and that the representations of the exotic “other” so realistically portrayed in his operas were unsettling to the socially elite Parisian opera audience, perhaps because it brought the distant “other” a bit too close in their consciousness.

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