Micaëla has travelled from a nearby village to a cigarette factory to see her teenage sweetheart, Don José, in order to deliver a message from his mother. The women working at the factory are supervised by a guard, Zuniga. The atmosphere is tense. The monotony of factory labour is only interrupted by the changing of the guard. After Zuniga’s departure, Carmen entertains the guards and notices Don José, throwing a flower to him. Micaëla finally meets Don José and their old feelings are reignited. The encounter is interrupted by a scream from the factory: a fight has erupted between Carmen and the other women. She is taken away from the others and Don José is assigned to guard her. To get away, Carmen seduces Don José, who is arrested for his negligence.
Carmen and her friends have taken refuge in a tavern. The famous bullfighter, Escamillo, arrives and seduces Carmen. The next day, Escamillo leaves and Don José arrives, declaring his love to Carmen. Carmen and Don José plan to run away together and get married. Don José travels to the romani camp to wait for Carmen, but before leaving to join him, Carmen runs into Escamillo. He promises her a perfect life by his side. Carmen writes in a letter to Don José that she doesn’t love him after all. Micaëla arrives at the tavern and she is trusted with delivering the letter to the camp. At the camp, Micaëla tries to talk Don José to follow her, but he professes his love for Carmen. Having read Carmen’s letter, Don José falls into despair.
At a party to celebrate Escamillo’s victorious bullfight and marriage, Carmen starts to doubt whether she should’ve ever got married. Don José still tries to convince Carmen to run away with him. Consumed by his passion, Don José stabs Carmen to death. Carmen dies in his arms.
You can read the full synopsis and other background information in the programme leaflet.