Saturday, April 26, 2008


The lesson of Carmen: Federalizing state crimes can make for difficult proofs on a temporal showing of intent

Carmen, by Bizet, is one of the most-performed operas, and for good reason. In the clip above (which stars "some other guy" rather than TallTenor), we see the final scene. Spoiler alert! Well, maybe that doesn't work the same in this genre.

In short, Carmen tells the story of a gypsy woman who works in a Spanish cigarette factory. She is a wily temptress who draws in a soldier in the Spanish army named Don Jose. Eventually, having lured Don Jose away from the army and into a life of crime, she abandons him for a well-known bullfighter. Heartbroken, Don Jose follows her and eventually kills her. The story allows for a wide range of expression and themes of reversed gender roles, the threat of sexuality, and the dark side of passion. It is both rooted in a historic place and time and thoroughly modern, which must contribute to its powerful effect on modern audiences. It provides three showpiece roles, including that of Don Jose, which is played by Placido Domingo in the clip above. TallTenor (William Joyner) has played this role throughout Europe and North America, with many of the most prestigious opera companies in the world. This is the role he is now playing the Austin Lyric Opera production, and when I saw him on Thursday night he was great.

Many of my students are probably now wondering the same thing I was pondering during the Austin production of Carmen: Were Don Jose's actions a violation of federal law pursuant to 18 U.S.C. Section 2261A? The answer is probably yes (assuming venue in the United States), but it may be a difficult case to prosecute. The difficult element to show would be intent-- that is, that the travel in interstate commerce (to the bullfight arena) by Don Jose was with the intent to kill, injure, or harass Carmen. No doubt, Don Jose would argue that his intent at the time he traveled was for the purpose of loving Carmen, not killing her. His carrying of a knife was typical of travelers at the time, and (he would argue) was not for the purpose of killing Carmen. There was, after all, no history of operatic violence between them. This case perfectly illustrates the problem of federalizing state crimes: It often creates a difficult federal nexus element of intent which can be difficult to prove and can lead to acquitals in cases that really belong in state court.

Anyways, the clip below does show TallTenor-- he's the guy in the gold headpiece.

Osler-- What about Little Shop of Horrors? Were there violations of federal law there?
What I want to know is if they are both Spanish and this is taking place in Seville, why are they speaking (singing) French? It's just not very realistic.
I think this isn't actually a clip from "Carmen" even though it's TallTenor--I heard the name "Thais" so I think it's a French opera. There's an opera called "Thais"--I only know that because I had to learn a violin piece once from that opera.
But do we know the bullfight was in a different jurisdiction? in Spain? Maybe Don Jose just went to the next town.

Would somebody kill his lover at a rodeo in Texas?
swisster- it is some other opera, the only one I could find of talltenor.

Med- Sadly, opera isn't big on realism.
Swissgirl, I'm sure rodeo murders have happened before. If you have a collection of people who are crazy enough to ride a bull + copious amounts of alcohol, the odds indicate that sooner or later, violence will result.

Especially if there's a jilted lover involved.
1. If Don Jose killed a man in Reno just to watch him die, would that be enough intent to get murder conviction?

2. I saw Tall Tenor kill Carmen at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., yet he still is out there on the loose. He needs to be stopped!
Which raises the question-- is it multiple murders (and thus death-eligible in Texas) if the defendant kills the same person multiple times?
OK, Oz... two questions:

1) Will you be my lawyer?

2) Since I've now performed this role 72 times, does that make me a serial killer?
SG... you are correct. The clip is from a 2002 production of Massenet's "Thaïs" from Venice's La Fenice Theater. The famous violin piece to which you refer is the "Meditation."
IPLG... I'm a master of disguise!
Oh, and Oz...

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