[Evening at Lillas Pastia's inn, tables scattered around; officers and gypsies relaxing after dinner]
A month has passed. Carmen and her friends, Frasquita and Mercédès were singing and and dancing in joy as they channeled the verses in melodious tunes.
"Les tringles des sistres tintaient"
Lillas Pastia was trying hard to get rid of Zuniga and his officers. They came for the gypsies, and for one especially, Carmen. Since they weren’t welcomed on the grounds of the inn, Zuniga invited Carmen and her friends to come with him to the theatre, but she could only think of seeing José again. He was demoted and jailed since her escape, and was only freed the day before. Just before they leave, the sound of a procession hailing Escamillo passes by outside, and the toreador was invited in.
"Vivat, vivat le Toréro!"
Escamillo turns and sees Carmen. He then begins to serenade her with the Toreador song in hopes of catching her heart. He did not succeed. Carmen says that for the time being he need not dream of being hers. When everyone except he gypsies have left, the smugglers Dancaïre and Remendado arrive and tell the girls of their plans to dispose of the contraband they have smuggled via Gibraltar.
"Nous avons en tête une affaire"
Carmen refuses to accompany them, saying to their amazement that she is in love. Suddenly, José's voice is heard calling from afar. Dancaïre thinks, and then tells Carmen she must try to get Don José to join them. They left hastily as they saw the Don entering. At last! Alone together again, they sat together in the company of wine, and José returned a gold coin that Carmen had sent him in jail.
Carmen looks at him, and then vexes him with stories of her dancing for the officers. To prove her charm, she then dances with castanets for him alone … round and round in the most alluring manner a man can only wish to witness.
"Je vais danser en votre honneur ... Lalala", she sings beautifully; appearing provocative with the movement of her hips.
During her song the penetrating sound of the bugles broke through the air. They were calling the soldiers back to barracks.
Carmen's temper flared when José explained that he must leave immediately, but he made her listen by producing the flower she threw at him back at the factory, which he kept while he was in prison; a true proof of his love. Carmen, unmoved as she was, told him to join her gypsy life if he really loves her.
"Non, tu ne m'aimes pas"
Her picture of a life of freedom tempts him but he finally refuses, saying he will never be a deserter. He begins to leave when Zuniga enters hoping to find Carmen. Don José draws his sword on his superior officer, but before they can fight the smugglers burst in and disarm both of them. Zuniga is made a prisoner and José has no alternative but to flee with Carmen.
[Taken from a site and altered a little]