Carmen - Suite from the Opera
Composer: Georges Bizet
Instrument: Percussion Ensemble
Arranged by Scott Weatherson
Duration: 15 min.
Georges Bizet's Carmen (1875), his most well known composition and loved the world over, provides the source material for this arrangement for percussion ensemble. The order of the movements are:
1. Les Toréadors
2. La Garde Montante
5. Danse Bohème
This arrangement is subtitled 'Suite from the Opera' as it draws upon material from both orchestral suites and presents the movements as close as possible to the order in which they appear in the opera; the only difference is the placing of the Danse Bohème (Act 2) as the final movement, rather than the Aragonaise (Act 4).
The rich melodic material of Bizet's writing provides many solo opportunities for the mallet percussion instruments. As well as the many vocal lines given to each of the instruments, two xylophones play the piccolo duet in La Garde Montante while a marimba plays the trumpet fanfares; the xylophones again share a duet role in the opening of the Danse Bohème.
The arrangement is for 10 players and requires glockenspiel, 2 xylophones, 2 vibraphones, 3 marimbas (including one 5 octave instrument), percussion (tambourine, triangle, bass drum and cymbals) and 4 timpani. Two mallet playing is used throughout on all mallet instruments.
Percussion Ensemble (10 players)
3 Marimbas (including one 5 octave instrument)
Percussion (Tambourine, Triangle, Bass Drum and Cymbals)
About the composer +
Georges Bizet (25 October 1838 – 3 June 1875), registered at birth as Alexandre César Léopold Bizet, was a French composer of the romantic era. Best known for his operas in a career cut short by his early death, Bizet achieved few successes before his final work, Carmen, which has become one of the most popular and frequently performed works in the entire opera repertoire.
During a brilliant student career at the Conservatoire de Paris, Bizet won many prizes, including the prestigious Prix de Rome in 1857. He was recognised as an outstanding pianist, though he chose not to capitalise on this skill and rarely performed in public. Returning to Paris after almost three years in Italy, he found that the main Parisian opera theatres preferred the established classical repertoire to the works of newcomers. His keyboard and orchestral compositions were likewise largely ignored; as a result, his career stalled, and he earned his living mainly by arranging and transcribing the music of others. Restless for success, he began many theatrical projects during the 1860s, most of which were abandoned. Neither of his two operas that reached the stage in this time—Les pêcheurs de perles and La jolie fille de Perth—were immediately successful.
After the Franco-Prussian War of 1870–71, during which Bizet served in the National Guard, he had little success with his one-act opera Djamileh, though an orchestral suite derived from his incidental music to Alphonse Daudet's play L'Arlésienne was instantly popular. The production of Bizet's final opera, Carmen, was delayed because of fears that its themes of betrayal and murder would offend audiences. After its premiere on 3 March 1875, Bizet was convinced that the work was a failure; he died of a heart attack three months later, unaware that it would prove a spectacular and enduring success.
Bizet's marriage to Geneviève Halévy was intermittently happy and produced one son. After his death, his work, apart from Carmen, was generally neglected. Manuscripts were given away or lost, and published versions of his works were frequently revised and adapted by other hands. He founded no school and had no obvious disciples or successors. After years of neglect, his works began to be performed more frequently in the 20th century. Later commentators have acclaimed him as a composer of brilliance and originality whose premature death was a significant loss to French musical theatre.
Review (Percussive Notes, July 2016)
Scott Weatherson’s arrangement offers five movements from Bizet’s famous opera, including “La Toreadors,” “La Garde Montante,” “Habanera,” “Aragonaise,” and “Danse Boheme.” The material only requires basic two-mallet technique from all of the players, making it accessible to younger musicians. The material is very recognizable, which would make it fun for younger groups who might particularly enjoy the “Habanera” movement. The arrangement is fairly straightforward, with each instrument taking a particular orchestral role. Each movement is marked well concerning phrasing, dynamics, and articulations. The only small issue that may arise in performance is having the ensemble play long held trills together and in time. The trill markings indicate which notes are to be used, allowing for discussion among students of how trills should be executed.
Overall, this piece would be effective on a high school percussion ensemble concert or a group of underclassmen college students. Weatherson has offered percussionists a fine arrangement of this classic piece.
Front Cover Graphics and Layout: Gaia Gomes
Engraving: Scott Weatherson & CPH Engraving
Printed in Copenhagen, Denmark
Copyright © Edition Svitzer