Europe Versus the Gypsies: The Case of Carmen

Carmen is independent, she defies the law, she associates with smugglers, she lives only for her love and does not care whether she is loved in return. In fact, she is so anti-social that she warns her lover against her love.

L’amour est enfant de Bohème,
il n’a jamais, jamais connu de loi.
si tu ne m’aimes pas, je t’aime
si je t’aime, prends garde à toi!

We admire – and are meant to admire – her proud, defiant lawlessness. She warned Don José! Serves him right – he was warned! There is a heroic statue of her on the Paseo Alcalde Marqués de Contadero, in Seville.

France, the latest European country that has deported the Roma to their native Rumania and Bulgaria, had the support of seventy percent of the population. France followed Finland, Denmark and Italy, which had begun the recent wave. Referring to the French case, Veronica Scognamiglio of the EU Bureau for Human Rights of Amnesty International in Brussels believes the deportations were “a disproportionate response” to the violent criminal activities in which they were involved. The persecution, she believes, is a trend everywhere in Europe. Roma are being targeted everywhere.

“The deportations of Eastern European Roma from France would have triggered a storm of protest throughout Europe just a decade ago,” writes the Hungarian daily, Magyar Nemze (August 21). “In the spirit of political correctness the media…would have warned of the advance of xenophobia.

“Human rights organizations would have vocally mobilized people to protect the Roma colonies. And in the end the deportation of the Roma would have been prevented. But faced with the challenges of the 21st century, particularly immigration and the global crisis, the combative liberals have grown quiet….

“The spirit of political correctness and the unlimited idea of freedom have increasingly faded into the background.”

Please note the final sentence of this article:

“Faced with the threat of its demise Europe has learned to appreciate not just the system but also the state.”

Who are we to tell whether or not this explanation makes sense.

One would have thought the economic crisis would suffice as a cause, without the soupçon of European apocalypse.

With the exception of local patriots in Seville, romantic idealists, and composers of genius, Europe has never found Carmen’s lawlessness admirable. The problem today is that the liberal forces that have protected the gypsies in Europe are gravely weakened. In Eastern Europe, they find it impossible to get work. The deportees to Rumania and Bulgaria, both members of the EU within which there is freedom of movement, will return to Western Europe as soon as possible and go underground – that is better than living overground in Rumania and Bulgaria. No doubt they will resume the activities so graphically described in the smuggler scene in Act Three of Carmen.

The fact that we hear little about the misdemeanors, if any, of the considerable gipsy population in Canada – there are nearly 80,000 here – is that for gypsies as such the situation is ultimately not hopeless.

However, in the short run they will have a hard time entering the country legally, the popularity of Carmen notwithstanding.


2 responses to “Europe Versus the Gypsies: The Case of Carmen

  1. The following is authentic:

    Translated from Italian into English, from the program of a Genoa Opera Company in the 60’s …

    ACT ONE: Carmen, a cigarmakeress from a tobago factory loves Don Jose of the mounting guard. Carmen takes a flower from her corsets and lances it to Don Jose. (Duet: “Talk to me of my mother.”)
    There was a noise inside the tobago factory and revolting cigarmakeresses burst on to the stage. Carmen is arrested and Don Jose is ordered to mounting guard on her but she subduces him and lets her escape.

    ACT TWO: The Tavern. Carmen signs (Aria: “The sistrums tinkling.”)
    Enter two smugglers. (“Ho, we have in mind a business.”)
    Enter Escamillio a Balls fighter. Carmen refuses to penetrate because Don Jose has liberated her from prison. He just now arrives. (Aria: “Slop here who comes.”)
    But here are the bugles singing his retreat. Don Jose will leave and draws his sword. Called by Carmen’s shrieks, the two smugglers interfere with her. Jose is bound to dessert.
    (Final Chorus: “Opening Sky Wandering Life.”)

    ACT THREE: A rocky landscape. Smugglers chatter. Carmen sees her death in the cards. Don Jose makes a date with here for the next Balls fight.

    ACT FOUR: A Place in Seville. Procession of Ball-fighters. The roaring of Balls is heard in the arena. Escamillio enters. (Aria and Chorus:
    “Toreador, Toreador. All hail the Balls of a toreador.”)
    Enter Don Jose. (Aria: I besmooch you.”)
    Carmen repels him. She want to join with Escamillio now chaired by the crowd. Don Jose stabs her. (Aria: “Oh rupture, rupture”.)
    He sings “Oh my subductive Carmen.”