“Carmen Fantasie,” based on themes from Bizet’s great opera Carmen, is part of Franz Waxman’s Oscar-nominated score for the movie Humoresque, a 1946 Joan Crawford melodrama about a violinist, Paul, and the married older woman, Helen, who becomes his patron.
Waxman needed to create a piece that the violinist, played by John Garfield, is rehearsing when he is passed a note from Helen asking to see him. He crumples up the note and continues playing, leaving Helen to flee to the local watering hole (spoiler alert: they don’t live happily ever after!). A young Isaac Stern played on the recording of the score, and it’s his hands that are seen in close-ups while Garfield pretends to be a virtuoso.
Jascha Heifetz, one of the greatest violinists of the twentieth century and perhaps of all time, heard “Carmen Fantasie” before the film even came out, and liked it so much, he asked Waxman to expand on it. Heifetz premiered the work on the radio program “The Bell Telephone Hour” in September 1946, and then toured the world performing “Carmen Fantasie,” recording it in November 1946.
We featured Frank Waxman earlier this season when the Cape Symphony performed his Oscar-winning Sunset Boulevard Suite. He was one of the most famous and celebrated film composers of the twentieth century, and his work was and still is taken very seriously as an important classical composer. According to franzwaxman.com, “Waxman was exceptionally skilled in orchestration, and his ability to exploit every coloristic resource adds an extra measure of zest to this artful mingling of showpiece and synthesis – that, a fidelity to the essence of Carmen that could be expected only in such a sincere homage from one composer to another.” Our amazing guest artist, Ji-Hae Park, will join the Cape Symphony to demonstrate the color and artistry of Waxman’s “Carmen Fantasie,” in which the violin portrays the character of Carmen.