Friday, July 1, 2016

Opera Theater of Pittsburgh Stages a "Carmen on the Move"

The Cast of" Carmen" Photo Credit: Patti Brahim

In 1875 Georges Bizet’s Carmen premiered in Paris. Though housed at the Opéra Comique, it was poorly received by conservative French audiences of the day. Carmen’s degenerate working-class characters, risqué interactions, and onstage murder seemed too much to handle. The opera didn’t gain the recognition it has today until well after Bizet’s untimely death at age 37.

In 2012 the first SummerFest mounted an original flamenco-style adaptation of Bizet’s opéra comique by Jonathan Eaton and Robert Frankenberry. The company’s acclaimed production was staged in the intimate 100-seat Kountz Black Box Theater to sold-out crowds with audience members seated a few feet from the singers. Bill O’Driscoll from Pittsburgh City Paper called it “entertaining” and “beautifully sung”, and Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s Mark Kanny wrote that “the impact of the drama was visceral in a way it never is in a big opera house”.

Opera Theater’s Carmen the Gypsy is a bold reimagining of Bizet’s masterpiece of passion and fate, set in a gypsy tavern with reduced orchestration for guitar, accordion, and flute.

Artistic and general director Jonathan Eaton says, “The first opera I ever saw was a Carmen. Our version is not the standard Carmen that my mum and dad took me to when I was ten years old—it’s far from it!” The pulsations of flamenco guitar and dance—coupled with the physically intimate design and setting—enrapture the senses and light a fire under this tragedy of dangerous liaisons. “It’s the passionate, dirty, and exciting story of Carmen, who refuses to let any man tell her who she is,” continues Eaton.

Celebrated singer Kara Cornell reprises her titled role as Opera Theater of Pittsburgh’s fifth SummerFest season takes Carmen the Gypsy on tour. James Flora returns as Don José, and Christopher Scott (who debuted with SummerFest 2015 in two roles) is Escamillo, the toreador. The production visits three distinct locations in Pittsburgh and the surrounding area for an enhanced experience of closeness and rendezvous.

On Saturday 01 July, Carmen the Gypsy travels to Bell Acres in Sewickley, where the performances take over the newly restored barn at Snuggery Farm. Nestled among the rolling green hills on Camp Meeting Road, Snuggery Farm has been a haven for equestrians and horses for a few decades. The Sewickley Open Hunt, a mock fox hunt, has taken place on its grounds for several years.

SummerFest’s Carmen the Gypsy turns this restful contemporary pastoral space into a raucous and rowdy countryside haunt, with dancing and music swelling to fill this beautiful barn from doors to the rafters.

“This is the weekend just before the 4th of July,” Eaton continues, ”so we are hosting a lovely summer barbeque before each performance, and stay for drinks around a fire afterwards.”

The Snuggery BBQ begins at 6:30 pm. Foods are prepared by exceptional caterers The Fabled Table and include chicken, pulled pork, Angus burgers, and grilled portabellas paired with light, healthy salads and slaws. Enjoy great food with an incredibly refreshing countryside view before entering the barn for the performance.

For all performances, ticket prices range (for unreserved seating) $25-35, according to venue. Advanced purchase for special meals is required. Students with valid ID always receive half-priced tickets online or at the door

A Scene from "Carmen" Photo Credit: Patti Brahim

On Saturday 09 July at 7:30 pm, Carmen the Gypsy ends its run at SummerFest’s main venue in the Falk Auditorium at Winchester Thurston School, Shadyside. Reserved seating is priced $25-75. This performance is followed by a “Tattoos and Tarot” themed Opening Night Party and Late Night Cabaret for $25. Enjoy light Mediterranean tapas, sit for a quick tarot card reading, or have artists from Gypsy Tattoo Parlor apply a temporary transfer tattoo.  

For tickets, visit or call 412-326-9687. Group, AAA and other discounts apply. Students with valid ID can receive half-priced tickets online or at the door

Article written by.Ryan McKelvey, Opera Theater SummerFest

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