It was written in 1873-1874 and debuted in 1875 (Oxford Dictionary). It portrays the dangers of the Romantic ideal. The ultimate climax - Carmen's murder - was seen as too controversial for audiences of the time and was nearly omitted. Fortunately, Bizet was support by the singers and the original ending was permitted to remain (MacDonald, "Carmen"). Though passionate and fiery, beautiful and wild - all of which are ideals of the Romantic - ultimately, it is these very romantic traits that lead her to her untimely demise. Don Jose, though a conservative, restrained man, also portrays the dangers of allowing oneself to grow caught in the passions of the Romantic world. Ultimately, this is a story of love jinxed by passion and how Jose was "led away by the smiles of a woman until he had lost rank, honor, country and a pure love" (Chesney, 67). .
Act one is where our lead characters meet. It takes place in a square in Seville. There is a cigarette factory and a guard house. Soldiers loiter until Michaela, Don Jose appears. She has come to see him and deliver a message from his mother, but he is not there. The officers suggest that she wait for him and at first she seems to agree to wait, but then they suggest she wait inside with them. She leaves and says she will come back later. Don Jose appears a few moments later. The men briefly gossip about the activities of the girls in the cigarette factory, then the bell in the cigarette factory rings and the girls who work there reappear. Carmen finally appears at this point, smoking. The men pursue her, asking which has her favor, when she responds with her famous habenera, stating her dangerous attitude toward love, "Love is rebellious and cannot be tamed. He has never known law. If you love me, I don't love you, and if you don't love me, I love you". She throws flowers at Don Jose and goes back to the factory. Jose is unimpressed but rather annoyed with her insolence.