A little history
Carmen got off to a rough start. The unlucky composer finally had a commission in hand: a full-length opera for the Opéra-Comique. Bizet began composing a score for Mérimée's short story Carmen, working with the renowned librettist duo Meilhac and Halévy. But the family-friendly opera house baulked at the risqué story, and stopped Bizet in his tracks. Two years later, the opera house changed hands and Carmen started production—but even then, things didn’t go smoothly.
The orchestra and the Chorus complained the score was unplayable and unsingable in parts. They had trouble finding a leading lady.
Nevertheless, Carmen premiered on March 3, 1875, which a who's who of composers in the audience. The reception began warmly but was "glacial" by the final act, according to the librettist.
It played to half-empty houses that year. But after Bizet's sudden death, Carmen was revived in Vienna, then Brussels, then London, and hailed a success.
Wagner, Tchaikovsky and Brahms all praised the work, with Wagner saying “Here, thank God, at last for a change is somebody with ideas in his head.”
Carmen is now credited as a forerunner of the "verismo" movement, where opera composers portrayed normal (read - middle or lower class) people in a realistic style. His melodies evoked the colour and culture of Andalusian Spain.