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La Habanera (An Aria From "Carmen")

By Thomas Keyes
July 22, 2005

One of the most delightful songs that I know is "La Habanera", an aria from the opera "Carmen", written in 1875, by the distinguished French composer Georges Bizet (1838-1875). The story of the opera was based on the novel "Carmen", by Prosper Merimie. Carmen was a tempestuous young gypsy girl of 19th century Spain. When I read the novel, Carmen, the heroine, reminded me of a teenage Puerto Rican girl in New York, with cigarette dangling from her mouth, a switchblade in her garter, and wearing too much lipstick. So unlike others who have come to the story, I was not overjoyed. But I do love the song.

Travelling around as I do, I generally am remote from any opportunity to attend opera or ballet, but at one time I did. Anyway, about once a year till 1998 this melody would come to mind, and then I'd forget it completely, remaining unable to recall it. Finally, I made up words, so I wouldn't lose it again, but I still didn't know the name. I went to the library, and looked at opera scores, and got nowhere. Finally, I overheard someone mention it by name, and got the music and played it, but couldn't still fit the words to the music. Now finally I have a score with the words beneath the notes, from a Library of Congress database. So after six or seven years of looking, I have found what I was looking for:

http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/ampage?collId=mussm&fileName=sm/sm1878/11700/11770/mussm11770.db&recNum=0&itemLink=D?mussm:4:./temp/~ammem_KrtC::@@@mdb=aasm,cwband,afcreed,scsm,molden,mussm,dukesm,amss&linkText=0

Here's an audible version. Just click on the first line under "Classical Larger Files":

http://www.allbuilders.com/designers/MIDI.htm

Here are the original French lyrics, followed by my own translation. When words or lines are repeated, I like to write them out completely. It does make it easier to fit words to melodies. So instead of "L'amour!...", for example, I have "L'amour! L'amour! L'amour! L'amour!", and I have actually repeated the refrain, in the appropriate place.

LA HABANERA (original French Lyrics)

L'amour est un oiseau rebelle
Que nul ne peut apprivoiser,
Et c'est bien in vain qu'on l'appelle
S'il lui convient de refuser.

Rien ny fait, menace ou prihre.
L'un parle bien, l'autre se tait.
Et c'est l'autre que je prifhre.
Il n'a rien dit mais il me plait.

L'amour! L'amour! L'amour! L'amour!

L'amour est enfant de Bohjme,
Il n'a jamais jamais connu de loi.
Si tou ne m'aimes pas, je t'aime.
Si je t'aime, prends garde ` toi!

Si tou ne m'aimes pas, si tou ne m'aimes pas, je t'aime,
Mais si je t'aime, si je t'aime, prends garde ` toi!

L'oiseau que tu croyais surprendere
Battit d'aile et s'envola.
L'amour est loin, tu peux l'attendre.
Tu ne l'attends pas, il est l`.

Tout atour de toi, vite vite,
Il vient, s'en va, puis il revient.
Tu crois le tenir, il t'evite.
Tu crois l'eviter, il te tient.

L'amour! L'amour! L'amour! L'amour!

L'amour est enfant de Bohjme,
Il n'a jamais jamais connu de loi.
Si tou ne m'aimes pas, je t'aime.
Si je t'aime, prends garde ` toi!

Si tou ne m'aimes pas, si tou ne m'aimes pas, je t'aime,
Mais si je t'aime, si je t'aime, prends garde ` toi!

LA HABANERA (Literal English Translation)

Love is a rebellious bird
That nothing can tame,
And it's quite in vain to call it,
If it's convenient for it to refuse.

Threat and prayer do nothing.
One speaks well, the other silences,
And it's the other that I prefer,
It's said nothing, but I like it.

Love! Love! Love! Love!

Love is a child of the Bohemian way.
It has never, never known the law.
If you don't love me, I love you.
If I love you, watch out!

If you don't love me, if you don't love me, I love you,
But if I love you, if I love you, watch out!

The bird you thought you'd surprise
Beat its wings and flew away.
Love is far, you cannot wait for it.
You're not waiting, it is there!

All around you, apace, apace,
It comes and goes and then returns.
You think to hold it, it eludes you.
You think to elude it, it holds you.

Love! Love! Love! Love!

Love is a child of the Bohemian way.
It has never, never known the law.
If you don't love me, I love you.
If I love you, watch out!

If you don't love me, if you don't love me, I love you,
But if I love you, if I love you, watch out!

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About the author Thomas Keyes: I have written two books: A SOJOURN IN ASIA (non-fiction) and A TALE OF UNG (fiction), neither published so far.

I have studied languages for years and traveled extensively on five continents.

Email: udikeyes@yahoo.com


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