There is something about Spain and its music that has attracted and inspired many French composers. As Spain and France are next to each other, perhaps it is the close proximity and inevitable mingling of cultures and languages that accounts for this. Whatever the reasons, Bizet is in a long line of French composers that wrote music on Spanish themes. Georges Bizet's opera Carmen opened in Paris in 1874 and was a failure. Critics panned it and the audience, while initially receptive, grew colder as the opera progressed. During its initial run, the composer Bizet died suddenly of a heart attack at age 36. The opera played a total of 48 performances in its first production, then was not heard again in Paris until 1883. The failure of the opera in its initial run has been attributed to the realism of it and the loose morals of some of the characters in it. Tchaikovsky saw the opera in a performance during its initial run and thought it a work of genius.
Sarasate wrote his Carmen Fantasy in 1883, just as the opera was beginning to gain in popularity. It is in five sections, four dances and an interlude:
Aragonaise - A Spanish dance from the Aragon region, in triple time.
Habanera- Originally a dance from Cuba, it was brought to pain by sailors.
Seguidilla - An old Castillian folk song and dance form in triple time.
The Carmen Fantasy is a very technically demanding. It asks much of the violinist in the way of pure technique, but also it is a test of the soloists musicianship. It also exists in a version for piano and violin and is often played in violin competitions.