Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Pick of the Week - Pittsburgh Opera's "Carmen"

Rinat Shaham as Carmen and  Morgan Smith as Escamillo. Photo Credit: David Bachman

Pittsburgh Opera continues its 76th season with a grand, traditional production of Georges Bizet’s beloved opera CARMEN. On stage at the Benedum Center March 21, 24, 27 and 29, CARMEN is one of the most-performed operas in the world, with a tuneful score (including the famous Habanera and Toreador Song), a heroine like no other, splashy arias and ensembles, and a sensational ending. Music Director Antony Walker conducts the Pittsburgh Opera Orchestra and Chorus.  Performances are at 8 p. m. on Mar. 21, 7 p.m. on Mar. 24, 7:30 p.m. on Mar. 27 and 2 p.m. on Mar. 29.  Tickets start at $12.

Based on the Prosper Mérimée novella that was considered too salacious for some 19th-century appetites, CARMEN marks the return of the sizzling Rinat Shaham (Don Giovanni, 2001) in the title role, and the debuts of A.J. Glueckert and Morgan Smith as the men who love her. Ms. Shaham has sung Carmen many times, earning praise from multiple publications, including Opera News: "The rich-voiced mezzo-soprano Rinat Shaham…was a fascinating Carmen. Shaham fully embodied the character, seamlessly weaving the arias and duets into the dramatic action… Vocally, Shaham went from strength to strength… " Morgan Smith, described by Opera News as possessing "good looks, striking intelligence, charismatic stage presence and a powerful baritone of mingled velvet and steel," sang Escamillo recently in Vancouver, while A. J. Glueckert recently also won praise from Opera News for his portrayal of the Prince in Rusalka: "a gleaming, effortless tenor sound and he did not shy away from the high-lying vocal writing."

CARMEN also calls for a large supporting cast, and the Pittsburgh Opera Resident Artists gain valuable stage experience in roles such as Don José’s sweetheart Micaëla (Jasmine Muhammad), gypsies Frasquita and Mercédès (Adelaide Boedecker and Corrie Stallings), and military officers Morales and Zuniga (Alex DeSocio and Phillip Gay). CARMEN adds to the grandeur with appearances by the Children’s Festival Chorus (complementing the Pittsburgh Opera Chorus) as well as supernumeraries as the townspeople of Seville. Director Marc Astafan makes his Pittsburgh Opera debut, bringing significant grand opera experience to his first Carmen, with multiple productions of La bohème, La traviata and Rigoletto in his resume.  

Tickets to CARMEN start at $12, with all performances at the Benedum Center, 7th Street and Penn Avenue, in Pittsburgh’s Cultural District. For the full story of CARMEN, visit www.pittsburghopera.org. To purchase tickets, call 412-456-6666 or visit www.pittsburghopera.org.

Three facts about CARMEN

1.      CARMEN was not particularly successful at first. It premiered at the Opéra Comique in Paris in 1875 and continued with just 35 additional performances. It was not until it was performed outside France for some years, that it was revived in Paris, and then gained tremendous popularity.

2.      Georges Bizet died at 36, during the first run of CARMEN, and never knew that his work would become one of the most frequently-performed operas in the world. 
3.      CARMEN has inspired more than 70 films, according to a Newcastle University study. Many depart from the opera's storyline, but all retain the broad themes of jealousy and thwarted love. The films range across languages and cultures, and have been created by prominent directors including Otto Preminger and Jean-Luc Godard. The film Carmen on Ice, starring Katarina Witt and Brian Boitano, was inspired by Witt's gold medal-winning performance during the 1988 Winter Olympics. In 2001, Beyoncé Knowles starred in Robert Townsend's Carmen: A Hip Hopera. 

Related Events        
CARMEN Previews on WQED-FM 89.3 and WQED.ORG
Friday, March 20 – 7:00 p.m.
Hosted by WQED’s Stephen Baum and Anna Singer, and broadcast over the airwaves as well as the WQED website, the CARMEN preview gives listeners an engaging introduction to the singers, music and story of the opera. For more information, visit www.pittsburghopera.org.
Audio Description: CARMEN
Tuesday, March 24
Pittsburgh Opera Headquarters
Ticketholders with visual impairments are invited to use Pittsburgh Opera’s Audio 
Description service at our Tuesday performances. Trained volunteers describe the scenery, costumes, and stage action via headphones. Those wishing to use Audio Description should reserve seats to the Tuesday, March 24 performance: contact Randy Adams at 412-281-0912, ext. 213 or groups@pittsburghopera.org. Braille and large-print programs are also available.

Meet the Artists of CARMEN
Tuesday, March 24
Immediately following the opera, in the performance space
Ticketholders for the Tuesday, March 24 performance of CARMEN are invited to gather in the performance space immediately following the performance for interviews with General Director Christopher Hahn and the stars of the opera. This event is free to all Tuesday performance ticketholders.

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