This is for you Opera Virgins-Bizet’s Carmen

The Atlanta Opera will be producing on Sept. 23, 25, and 26 the opera Carmen by Georges Bizet. This production is stage-directed by Marc Verzatt, who’s directed in great houses all over the world, the Metropolitan Opera in particular, and of course will be conducted by William Fred Scott.

Disclaimer; I’m in the opera chorus for Carmen. Should you come you will see me as ‘The Sleepy Soldier With The Newspaper’ on a platform upstage right as the curtain opens.

That said, I strongly encourage anyone even remotely interested to come see this. Like I said-I’m just in the chorus on this one. We get paid the same fee either way, and unless you know me well, you won’t know I’m up there at all. I’m not shilling to get the personal attention; the job of a chorister in opera is to sing, and god willing act, the best they can and still not detract from the stars of the show. I can do that. It will most likely be my last job as a chorister with the AOC because I’ve begun receiving principal engagements with other companies, as I’ve mentioned in other entries here and in my personal blog.

Carmen is one of the most accessible and well-known operas in the repertoire of any house. It’s been hip-hopped, be-bopped, Domingo’d and flamenco’d.

I can virtually guarantee that if you were to say to me you’ve never heard any opera I could sing the opening tune to the “Toreador Song”, Escamillo’s second act aria, and you’d immediately recognize it. Same goes for Carmen’s “Habanera”, which is the music you hear when you go to the Atlanta Opera’s website. Carmen, arguably, has influenced more pop culture in the 20th century than just about any other opera.

Why? Well, it’s so…Jerry Springer, in it’s way. Don Jose, the (anti-) hero, is by the end of the opera what we’d recognized nowadays as a rather classic stalker. Carmen, though, is a complex character that could be viewed as the first ‘modern’ operatic heroine, in attitude and action. She lives her way, by her rules, and will love whom she wants, do what (and who she wants), even if it means her death. There’s a reason that one of the musical high points of the opera is most of the cast and chorus singing the words “la libertÈ”-Freedom. Many men will say they want a woman like Carmen, but in the end none of them can handle her.

If you have never seen an opera onstage before, I can’t think of a better one to recommend. The Atlanta Opera runs supertitles above the stage that translate the action, usually colloquially, into english, and this is surprisingly easy to follow once you get accustomed to it. In this opera the principals have all thus far struck me as fine actors-which is saying something in opera-and the director takes an approach working with all of us that I recognize as more in the style of straight, dramatic theater than opera. Hence the responses he draws from principals and chorus alike are much more true-to-life, much easier to respond to.

And ultimately, the music is beautiful, sensual, viscerally thrilling, and incredibly memorable. I can guarantee our conductor knows this and will deliver the musical goods accordingly.

The venue is the Atlanta Civic Center. Come to see it with someone who’s hot, or hot for you, or if you just want to hang on to that last vestige of the sultry summer now passing. Carmen is not just the perfect live staged first for an opera virgin, but the perfect opera in it’s way for southerners to understand-much of it takes place in the summery climes of Spain, where they sit around fanning themselves and trying not to move just like we do come early August. Folks steal stuff, there’s a big ole girlfight square in the middle of Act 1…if you’re not entertained, you’re dead.

‘Nuff said.

3 Comments so far

  1. Kendall (unregistered) on September 3rd, 2004 @ 7:37 am

    SOLD! Dang Steve …you’ve got me excited about Opera …. I’ve seen all of the versions of Carmen you mentioned up top …especially loved the version with Placido Domingo …

    Thanks for the heads up!

  2. Mrs. Angie (unregistered) on September 3rd, 2004 @ 10:05 am

    I am so there! Pity no one can really see me in the studio. Nothin’ much to see….me in sweats with hot lemon water….purdy! But I will be there with my opera bells on. Carmen is one of my all time faves…next to Les Mis.

  3. Meridian (unregistered) on August 17th, 2005 @ 8:23 am


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