Nirvana covering an aria from an 1875 opera
08:04 am
Nirvana covering an aria from an 1875 opera

Nirvana 1
Wait, Nirvana covered an aria from an opera?! That was my reaction when I learned that it indeed happened, and on more than one occasion. Often unrecognized and misidentified on circulating recordings, since fans of Nirvana—and I include myself in this group—generally aren’t into 19th century classical works. But apparently the band was.

“L’amour est un Oiseau Rebelle” or simply “Habanera,” is an aria in Georges Bizet’s 1875 opera, Carmen. The piece comes in act 1, and functions as an introduction to the Carmen character. The English translation of “L’amour est un Oiseau Rebelle” is “Love is a Rebellious Bird,” and the lyrics address the wild, untamed nature of love.

An interpretation by legendary vocalist Maria Callas recently gained some attention, as it was featured during a scene in the popular biopic, Bohemian Rhapsody.

Nirvana played “L’amour est un Oiseau Rebelle” now and then, with a just a handful of identified airings (no studio recording exists, as far as we know). It was something they’d jam on, usually acting as a kind of informal show opener. And, no, Kurt Cobain didn’t get his Pavarotti on—it was performed instrumentally.

Carmen is one of the most popular operas, but it’s unclear how the song came into the band’s orbit, exactly.
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There’s amateur video of Nirvana giving “L’amour est un Oiseau Rebelle” a whirl at a club show in Dallas on October 19th, 1991. Kurt kicks it off, his guitar focused on the catchy, tango-like rhythm of the aria. Later in the set, he’d tangle with a bouncer.

The last known time they cracked out “L’amour est un Oiseau Rebelle” was at a festival show in Rio de Janeiro on January 23rd, 1993, which was professionally shot. The jam begins with Kurt playing an unrelated guitar part before switching gears.

Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Nirvana, Mudhoney, and the audience battle shitty security guards during Sub Pop’s ‘Lame Fest,’ 1989
Nirvana playing ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ live for the very last time
Watch Nirvana sabotage Buenos Aires stadium show, opening with (still) unreleased song, 1992

Posted by Bart Bealmear
08:04 am



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