Bizet's Carmen is probably the best known opera of the standard repertoire, yet its very familiarity often prevents us from approaching it with the seriousness it deserves. This handbook explores the opera in a number of contexts, bringing to the surface the controversies over gender, race, class and musical propriety that greeted its premiere and that have been rekindled by the recent spate of film versions. Beginning with a study of the Merimee story by Peter Robinson and an examination of the social tensions in nineteenth-century France that inform both that story and the opera, the book traces the latter through its genesis and reception. The central core of the book presents a close reading of the opera that offers new interpretive possibilities. The handbook concludes with discussions of four films based on the opera: Carmen Jones and the versions of Carmen by Carlos Saura, Peter Brook, and Francesco Rosi. The volume contains a bibliography, music examples, and a synopsis.