Captivating Mezzo-soprano – Habanera

Captivating Mezzo-soprano – Habanera


Why we think certain voices captivating? This question is hard to answer, but it doesn’t hurt to think about it. When we say a voice captivating, it must have some features that meet a certain standard of “captivating” inside of our minds. Attracting us to listen in a single cycle, for example, can be a standard, alluring us to sing along can be another, and provoking communal emotion can also be one. The voice singing behind L'amour est un oiseau rebelle, known as Carmen: Habanera, is a good explanation of captivating voice in that it depicts images and tells stories.


Carmen: Habanera is the entrance aria of the title character (mezzo-soprano) and one of the most famous arias from Georges Bizet's 1875 opera Carmen. Here’s a link to a MET Opera version sung by Elīna Garanča’s.



We say a voice effective if it conveys information. The most captivating thing about Habanera is its outstanding capability of depicting images which contains key information about the owner of the voice, the "gypsy girl" Carmen. So-called gypsy style of music is highly distinctive by its uses of "Gypsy" idioms which include variable pitches and improvisational tempos. These characteristics give "Gypsy" musicians a high level of “freedom” when performing. In Carmen: Habanera, the mezzo-soprano singer uses different musical elements to convey information -- expressing herself and establishing a figure of an untamed, freedom-seeking Gypsy woman. When we see a clear, vivid image of this woman upon hearing her voice, we say the voice captivating.


How did she do this? This exhibit shows the vocalist’s use of different musical elements and their different approaches to demonstrate Carmen’s characteristic. To be specific, we analyze the effect of lyrics, vocal ornamentations, tempos, vocal accompany and breathes. Lyrics play a leading role, directly sending out the idea of “love is a color bird”. Ornamentations include various different vocal techniques and the remarkable one used here, the glissandos, is a vivid expression of teasing. The unstable tempo symbolizes the character’s unstable love towards men. Both the singing company and the intimacy make the voice a special mezzo-soprano and demonstrate the Gypsy style of unique.


The following entries further discuss the way the voice express itself by comparing and contrasting with other audio examples.

by Ria Cao