Opera Carolina’s 70th season is a celebration of strong female characters. And the title character from Georges Bizet’s Carmen (Jan. 19, 20 and 24) is one of the strongest women in opera – or any art form.
Carmen premiered in 1875 – and was absolutely scandalous at the time. But scandal sells. It’s been popular ever since. After starting out as a novella by Prosper Mérimée, Carmen has been an opera, a ballet, a flamenco dance movie, a Broadway musical with Harry Belafonte and Dorothy Dandridge (Carmen Jones) and more.
“Carmen has a tragic ending, but I don’t view Carmen, the character, as tragic,” said Opera Carolina Artistic Director James Meena. “She’s nobody’s fool. She won’t be bullied into a relationship. She insists on living her life fully and freely and would rather die than be with a man she doesn’t love.”
“We couldn’t conceive of producing a season celebrating strong female characters without doing Carmen,” Meena continued. “She’s one of the gutsiest leads – male or female – in all of opera.” All the music and dialogue are performed in French.
Jeffrey Buchman, who has directed at Opera Naples, Lyric Opera Baltimore, the Brevard Music Festival, the Miami Summer Music Festival and more, will make his directorial debut with Opera Carolina. He’s performed with Opera Carolina as a singer, though. His last time on stage with the company was in the role of Valentin in Faust in 1999. In addition, all three leads are making their company debut. Buchman’s wife and frequent collaborator, Rosa Mercedes, is the choreographer. Maestro Meena will conduct.
The opera has seeped into pop culture. One of Carmen’s most famous melodies, “Habanera,” has been used in Sesame Street; the 2007 movie Wild Hogs; the 2008 movie Fool’s Gold; the 1996 film Trainspotting; and in the “wake-up” scene in the Disney/Pixar film Up. The same tune has also been used to sell Doritos and pasta sauce.
“The She Season” began with Donizetti’s Daughter of the Regiment in November and concludes with Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin (May 9, 11 and 12).
All grand opera performances are at the Belk Theater, North Carolina Blumenthal Performing Arts Center. Tickets are on sale through the Performing Arts Center Box Office at 704.372.1000 or via operacarolina.org.
About the Cast
American soprano Alyson Cambridge (Carmen) makes her Opera Carolina debut in the role of Carmen. She’s performed the roles of Micaela and Frasquita before, so she knows the opera well. She’s performed on some of the world’s greatest stages, including The Metropolitan Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Washington National Opera, Los Angeles Opera, Carnegie Hall, London’s Royal Albert Hall and more. The Virginia native was educated at Sidwell Friends School in Washington, D.C., Oberlin College and Conservatory of Music and the Curtis Institute of Music. She was also part of the Metropolitan Opera’s Lindemann Young Artist Development Program.
Tenor Dario di Vietri (Don José) hails from Bari in Italy. He studied at the Milan Conservatory under the guidance of Vittorio Terranova. From 2009 to 2011, he was a student of the School of Italian Opera at Teatro Comunale of Bologna. He made his stage debut as Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly in the Theaters of the Circuito Lirico Lombardo. Although this production of Carmen marks his Opera Carolina debut, he’s sung the role of Don José in Carmen many times – at theatres in Livorno, Lucca, Pisa and Fano.
Baritone Alex Lawrence (Escamillo) made his Vancouver Opera debut in the title role in Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro and debuted the role of Il Conte in the same opera with Opera Naples two seasons ago. Also last season, he sang performances of Carmina Burana with New Orchestra of Washington, Dvořák’s Requiem with Saint George’s Choral Society and joined pianist Kevin Murphy in recital with the Ravinia Festival and the Tucson Desert Song Festival.
About Opera Carolina
Founded in 1948 by the Charlotte Music Club as a small group of volunteers, today Opera Carolina is the largest professional opera company in the Carolinas with an operating budget of more than $3.7 million for the fiscal year 2017 . The mission of Opera Carolina is to inspire the region’s diverse community through the presentation of opera and educational programs that elevate the quality of life in the Carolinas. Opera Carolina has a commitment to artistic excellence and community service.