A friend asks 'Are we in a simulation? If so, how would we find out?'

In 1875 Georges Bizet wrote an opera, Carmen. The title character is a Romani woman in Spain. She works in a cigarette factory by day while moonlighting as a member of a gang of smugglers.

Carmen  (Maria Ewing)

She may be taken as an exemplar of some questions artists encounter in aesthetic philosophy.


Does Carmen know she's in an opera?
No. She would say she's in Spain.

Does Carmen know she's singing?
The singer who portrays Carmen is singing. Carmen herself sometimes sings and sometimes doesn't. Sometimes she's got a little melody going ('la la la') but sometimes she's just telling somebody off.
Carmen does know when she is singing and when she is not.

Is Carmen free?
No. She's a character. Her lines and story are set.
In those lines, of course, she says she is free.

Is Carmen at least free in her own universe?
She insists to other characters that she is free. Her actions, though, suggest a person who is fiercely driven. Tragedy results when she encounters another personality as driven as hers.
Meanwhile, the view she expresses in private is fatalistic. Everything that happens, she says, is already present in the cards you are dealt.
For all her talk about freedom Carmen seems to feel she never really chooses anything.

How can Carmen find out she's a character in an opera?
She can't. The only way she could find out is if her opera was about a character who finds out.


Carmen exists in a universe that obeys certain laws. Her world is one in which people go around singing as atoms in ours go around forming molecules. No one thinks anything of it. It's just how the universe works.

Carmen will always come to a tragic end. The events of her life are built into the structure of her universe. It's a closed loop.

Carmen suspects as much. But she will never discover this for a fact, because the only existence she has is in a place where she is not a character at all. She is a real person.



Vintage 1929

Cheers to conductor Bernard Haitink,
born 1929 March 4 in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

On the Summit


Another birthday?

Yow. Cue music!



O, mia patria

Va, pensiero, sull'ali dorate; 

Go, thought, on wings of gold;
va, ti posa sui clivi, sui colli,
go settle over the slopes and the hills,
ove olezzano tepide e molli 
where waft, soft and mild, the fragrant
l'aure dolci del suolo natal!
sweet airs of our native land.

Del Giordano le rive saluta, 
Greet the Jordan's river banks
di Sionne le torri atterrate.
and Zion's towers now toppled.
O, mia patria – sì bella e perduta! 
Oh, my homeland – so beautiful and lost!
O, membranza, sì cara e fatal!
Oh, memory, so dear and cruel!

Arpa d'or dei fatidici vati, 

Golden lyre of the prophets,
perché muta dal salice pendi?
why hang silent on the willow?
Le memorie nel petto raccendi, 
Rekindle our hearts' memories
ci favella del tempo che fu!
and speak to us of times gone by.

O simile di Sòlima ai fati traggi 
All you who have experienced a similar tragedy,
un suono di crudo lamento,
sound a primal wail of lament.
o t'ispiri il Signore un concento 
May the Lord inspire a grand utterance
che ne infonda al patire virtù.
to give pain some dignity.

'Va, pensiero' (Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves)
Nabucco (1841)
Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901)
Libretto by Temistocle Solera (1815-1878)

Metropolitan Opera Chorus
October 2002



It's Show Time

'You know I'm retired from hero work.'
'As am I, Robert. Yet here we are.'


 (Pixar, 2004)


'O God, who once stirred love and hope in our souls, now kindle a passion for liberty.'

Giuseppe Verdi

Duet: ‘Dio, che nell’alma infondere’
Act 2, Don Carlo (1867)
Placido Domingo (Don Carlo), tenor
Louis Quilico (Rodrigo), baritone
Metropolitan Opera (1983)


'1001 Nights' available for listening

Some have asked when 1001 Nights: The Radio Play will be available for listening on demand. I am happy to report that the show now is. You can find the audio at the ICRT web site and in the 'On Demand' menu of the ICRT Radio app.


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Thanks as always for your kind interest. Enjoy!