Even if a person can’t name the title of the piece or who wrote the tune, most people could probably hum along to a piece or two from George Bizet’s opera “Carmen,” simply because the music has been reappropriated for over a century in different forms. The opera is in the public domain because Bizet died in 1875, and the term of protection has long since expired. However, certain productions of the opera, like Francesco Rosi’s 1984 film version, contain copyrights, performer rights, and producer rights. Meaning, the sheet music of “Carmen” can be used and interpreted however anyone wants, but if you want an existing recording, you’ll have to pay for it.
This has led to the music being used in countless commercials, TV shows, movies, and yes, even video games. The song “Habanera” has arguably been used the most, and you may recognize the string movement as sung by The Muppets (and Elmo on “Sesame Street”), the song that plays as Carl stumbles throughout his home in “Up,” or how the rushing opening of the piece is used as the theme song for Tyson chicken commercials. Both “The Simpsons” and “Hey Arnold!” feature episodes of the cast seeing productions of the show, and Queen Bey herself, Beyoncé, made her acting debut in Robert Townsend’s “Carmen: A Hip Hopera.”
This makes the use of the “Toreadors March” in “Five Nights at Freddy’s” such a great choice. The game doesn’t have to pay expensive royalties to obtain the rights to the song, the general public is already familiar with the tune even if they don’t know it by name, and it doesn’t fall under the umbrella of nursery rhymes or folk songs — which have been done to death in horror movies by now.