KS2: Georges Bizet - ‘Habanera’ and ‘Toreador Song’ from ‘Carmen Suite No. 2’

Bobby Lockwood and Naomi Wilkinson introduce Bizet's 'Carmen'.

Bizet came from a very musical family – his father was a composer and his mother was a pianist – and his own musical talents were obvious from an early age. In fact, he was such a talented child that he was allowed to study at the Paris Conservatoire (music college) when he was just nine years old! Bizet's work remained individual throughout his career - he went on to write operas, symphonies and other orchestral pieces.

Bizet finished his most famous and most popular piece of work, the opera 'Carmen', in 1874. The 'Habanera' from Act I and the 'Toreador Song' from Act II of 'Carmen' are now two of the best known of all operatic arias. That's a pretty big achievement for an opera that Bizet originally predicted would be "a definite and hopeless flop". As it turned out, he couldn't have been more wrong. The bold drama of the storyline and punchiness of Bizet's melodies have made it a lasting favourite with audiences. Its powerful story of love, betrayal and revenge continues to capture imaginations the world over, almost 150 years on.

Listen out for: Its Spanish-sounding tunes. This is particularly impressive when you remember that Bizet was French!

Watch the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra perform 'Habanera' from 'Carmen Suite No. 2'.

Georges Bizet

BORN: 1838 / DIED: 1875 / NATIONALITY: French

Bizet was a French composer and pianist who, after studying at the Paris Conservatoire, found it difficult to be taken seriously as an opera composer. His early works were mostly ignored and he made money by arranging music for other, lesser composers. In 1875, obsessed by all things Spanish, he wrote 'Carmen', a light opera with a serious ending about a beautiful girl who works in a factory.

The BBC Philharmonic Orchestra perform 'Toreador Song' from 'Carmen Suite No. 2', conducted by Alpesh Chauhan.

Initially the piece was a flop - critics complained that it didn't have enough melody in it and Bizet died three months later thinking himself a failure. He didn't live to see 'Carmen' gradually grow into a worldwide phenomenon. It is now one of the most popular of all operas and exists in many versions. It is littered with famous, hummable tunes.

MP3s: Listen to the music or download the audio

Download the 'Habenara' MP3

Download the 'Toreador Song' MP3

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Georges Bizet
Georges Bizet

Lesson Plans

Download classroom lesson plans to explore Bizet's music.

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Primary lesson plans:

Primary lesson plan for 'Habanera' and 'Toreador Song' (Powerpoint)

Primary lesson plan for 'Habanera' and 'Toreador Song' (PDF)

Lesson plan by Rachel Leach

Suitable for:
Key Stage 2 in England and Wales
Second Level, P5-P7 in Scotland
*Key Stage 1/Key Stage 2 in Northern Ireland

'Habanera' arrangements: Play with simplified parts

All parts have been designed to work together to enable mixed-ability groups to perform together

Combined score

All levels of ability in one score

Original instrumentation

In case you're considering using original parts together with these arrangements, you may find the composer's original instrumentation helpful:

2.2.2.2 – 4.2.3.1 – tmp+4, - strings

'Toreador Song' arrangements: Play with simplified parts

All parts have been designed to work together to enable mixed-ability groups to perform together

Combined score

All levels of ability in one score (transposed key of G minor)

Original instrumentation

In case you're considering using original parts together with these arrangements, you may find the composer's original instrumentation helpful:

2.2.2.2 – 4.2.3.1 – tmp+3, - strings