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Flower Power – Aria Code Episode 10

Don José and Dangerous Love in Bizet's Carmen

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You hear the message over and over in pop culture: love overcomes everything.

But when Don José sings “The Flower Song” in Bizet's Carmen, you're reminded that love has a dark side, too. In the Season 1 finale, host Rhiannon Giddens welcomes tenor Roberto Alagna, critic Anne Midgette and psychologist Andrew G. Marshall to consider the crazy, possessive side of love and the importance of experiencing art that doesn’t have a fairy-tale ending. Then, you’ll hear Alagna sing the role of the passionate and violent Don José onstage at the Metropolitan Opera.

The Guests

Tenor Roberto Alagna first performed as Don José when he was 35. Twenty years and many performances later, he thinks he “judged” José a little too harshly in the past and now feels more empathy for the character's misguided and obsessive love.

As a teenager, Washington Post critic Anne Midgette dreamed of living in Europe with a boyfriend who sang opera. When she moved there after college and dated a tenor who sang “The Flower Song” on a train platform, she thought, “Oh my god, my dream came true.”

When writer and marital therapist Andrew G Marshall took his parents to see Carmen, they expected to hear some familiar tunes and a sweet love story. Instead, they got “horror and bloodshed.” Pro tip: always read the program notes.


Aria Code is a new podcast that pulls back the curtain on some of the most famous arias in opera history, with insight from the biggest voices of our time, including Plácido Domingo, Diana Damrau, Sondra Radvanovsky, and many others.

Each episode dives into one aria — a feature for a single singer — and explores how and why these brief musical moments have imprinted themselves in our collective consciousness and what it takes to stand on the Met stage and sing them.

Hosted by Grammy Award-winner and MacArthur “Genius” Fellow Rhiannon Giddens, Aria Code is produced by WQXR in partnership with The Metropolitan Opera. The team includes Merrin Lazyan, Brendan Francis Newnam, Matt Boynton, Ricardo Quiñones, Ania Grzesik, Khrista Rypl and Matt Abramovitz. Original music by Hannis Brown.

  • Flower Power – Aria Code Episode 10

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