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It wasn’t until a friend mentioned it recently (thanks Eddie) that I discovered that the most famous bit of music by Bizet,  the Habañera from Carmen, isn’t actually by Bizet at all, but Sebastian Yradier.  Thanks to a recent article in the Cambridge Opera Journal about this and other aspects of the music of Carmen, I found out the title of the original source (El Arreglito).  According to the article,  Yradier’s publishers Heugel did ask Bizet to cough up royalties after the Paris première of Carmen, so there is some justice in the world.

And now, thanks to the wonderful International Music Score Library Project (IMSLP), we can all see the original: click here to go a free download of the sheet music for Yradier’s El Arreglito).

Astonishing – and perhaps symptomatic of the power struggle between art music and popular music – that this is still known as ‘Bizet’s Habañera‘, even though there is no question that the music is Yradier’s. The original seems odd when you know Bizet’s version, but the more I look at it, the less I am sure that Bizet has done anything to improve it.

Another revelation (to me, it’s nothing new to Carmen buffs) is that the music for the Entr’acte in Act IV is heavily influenced by a polo by Manuel Garcia. Thanks to Google Books, you can see exactly what I mean. Click here, or see below if you’re in a browser:

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Jonathan Still, ballet pianist