Carmen

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Carmen is a beautiful and free-spirited gypsy who makes men melt. When the naive Don Jose falls for her, he falls hard into a dangerous obsession, breaking up with his childhood sweetheart and abandoning the military. But the reckless Carmen cannot be tamed, and she grows weary of Don Jose once she meets the glamorous toreador, Escamillo. This messy love triangle won’t end well.

Studio Artist Brenna Corner* will direct, and Music Director Arthur Fagen will conduct. Mezzo-soprano Zanda Švēde makes her company debut in the title role, and tenor Gianluca Terranova returns to Atlanta in the role of Don Jose. Baritone Edward Parks is Escamillo, the bullfighter.

*2016-17 Atlanta Opera Studio artist

Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre

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$42.40 for Sun brunch

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Friday, May 4: Young professionals enjoy a pre-show cocktail hour + ticket to the show
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Thursday, April 26: Teachers with students may attend the final dress rehearsal for FREE
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Synopsis

Composer: Georges Bizet
Librettists: Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halevy (in French)
Based on: Carmen by Prosper Mérimée

Premiere Date: March 3, 1875

Act I — A town square in Seville, Spain
Moralès and his soldiers pass their time reading and playing dice. Micaëla appears, looking for her fiancé, Corporal Don José. She is told that José will arrive with the changing of the guard. Micaëla departs. Lieutenant Zuniga and Don José arrive for the changing of the guard. The midday bell rings, and the women who have been working in the factory come outside for their break. Among them is Carmen, who entrances all — except Don José. Carmen throws a flower at him and returns to the factory.

Micaëla returns with a letter from Don José’s mother. Suddenly, sounds of a fight are heard in the factory. Women burst loudly into the square, and Carmen is accused of wounding her co-worker with a knife. José is ordered to arrest Carmen. Once they are alone, Carmen convinces José to help her escape. Don José unties Carmen and she flees. José is arrested.

Act II — Lillas Pastia’s tavern
At the end of a dance, Zuniga tells Carmen that José has been released after a month in prison. The famous bullfighter Escamillo arrives. He is immediately attracted to Carmen, but she refuses his advances. The smugglers Remendado and Dancaïro enter. They ask Carmen, Frasquita, and Mercédès for their help on a smuggling mission. Carmen refuses, saying again that she is waiting for Don José, her true love.

Don José arrives and Carmen dances for him. When Don José tells Carmen he must return to the barracks, she mocks him and accuses him of not loving her; if he did, he would leave the army and join her in the mountains. Don José tells her he loves her but that he must go. Zuniga bursts in. The two men brawl. Zuniga and Don José are restrained, but now that Don José has attacked his superior officer, he has no choice but to leave the army and join the smugglers.

Act III — A mountain hideaway
The smugglers are on their way to the border with their stolen goods. There is tension between Carmen and Don José. They have an argument and Carmen joins the women, who are using cards to tell their fortunes. For Carmen, the cards foresee only death.

Don José is left behind to guard stolen goods at the camp. Micaëla enters searching for Don José, but she hides when Don José fires his gun at an intruder. It is Escamillo, searching for Carmen. Don José is furious, and they fight. They are interrupted by Carmen and the other smugglers. Escamillo departs, inviting everyone — especially Carmen — to his next bullfight in Seville. Micaëla is discovered and reveals that Don José’s mother is dying. She begs him to return home. Carmen urges him to go. Don José decides he must leave, but he warns Carmen that they will meet again.

Act IV — Outside the bullring in Seville
Carmen escorts Escamillo as an excited crowd cheers the bullfighters. Frasquita and Mercédès warn Carmen that Don José has been seen in the crowd. Don José finds Carmen alone and pleads with her to forget the past and start a new life with him. Carmen tells Don José that everything between them is over. When Don José tries to prevent Carmen from joining her new lover, she loses her temper. She angrily throws down a ring that Don José had given her. Enraged, Don José stabs Carmen as the crowd cheers Escamillo’s victory.

Courtesy of Opera America

Characters & Cast

Carmen

The beautiful and free-spirited gypsy who temps the hapless Don Jose with uninhibited seduction.

Zanda Švēde

Praised by The Independent for her “movie-star looks” and “chocolatey mezzo-soprano,” Latvian mezzo-soprano Zanda Švēde recently finished her final year as an Adler Fellow at San Francisco Opera.

Don Jose

A soldier of the guard, Don Jose whose obsession with Carmen comes to a violent conclusion.

Gianluca Terranova

Internationally acclaimed tenor Gianluca Terranova, who made his Atlanta debut in La bohème, returns to Atlanta to sing the role of Calaf for the first time in his career.

Escamillo

The famous bullfighter who wins Carmen’s heart, before her tragic end.

Edward Parks

Baritone Edward Parks has been hailed by Opera News for his “warm, velvety baritone” and the New York Times for providing “precision, sensitivity and nuance in abundance” and a “robust, earthy voice”.

Newbie Guide

The Opera Experience

Operas on our mainstage are grand theatrical experiences. You can always expect the unexpected, and for our productions to be presented at the highest quality.

Supertitles

Many operas are in a foreign language. Supertitles are similar to subtitles in a film, except they are projected above the stage. These translations will help you follow what’s happening on stage.

What to Wear

There is no dress code at The Opera and you will see everything from jeans to evening gowns and formal suits. Most people use it as a chance to enjoy dressing up in their own style.

Arriving in Good Time

If you are late, you will be escorted to the nearest late seating area. At intermission ushers will show you to your seat. Plan ahead to arrive with extra time.

Directions & Parking at Cobb Energy Center

Enhance Your Visit

Mangia!

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Pre-Performance Talk

Learn about the history of the opera and the composer with board member and opera aficionado, Carter Joseph. One hour prior to curtain. Free with your ticket!

Learn More

Familiarizing Yourself with the Story

Because of the foreign languages, classical music, and often complex plots, you will very likely enjoy the performance better if you spend a few minutes familiarizing yourself with the story and characters in advance. Some people even like to listen to the music in advance and others prefer to let it wash over them during the show and perhaps look it up afterwards.

Visit our Study Guides Library

How is an Opera Staged?

Auditions

Actors first audition for roles up to a year in advance, or for more experienced artists, directors also invite them to play a role.

Rehearsals

Most of the rehearsals are held in our rehearsal hall, and not the actual theatre. The conductor begins orchestra rehearsals about a week and half before opening night. They have four rehearsals with the conductor, and then the singers are added into the mix.

Sets & Costumes

The Atlanta Opera Costume Shop alters the costumes to fit our singers. Sometimes they do have to make costumes if there aren’t enough, or if there is nothing that fits, etc. Once the sets are in place, the cast begins rehearsing at the theatre. The Opera production staff works with staff at the theatre to get all of the lighting and technical aspects of the production together.

Sitzprobe & Dress Rehearsal

The orchestra comes together with the singers in a special rehearsal called sitzprobe. There are no costumes during the sitzprobe, this is mainly to hear the voices with the orchestra. There is a piano dress rehearsal, when the singers rehearse in full costume for the first time so they can get used to wearing them. Finally, all of the pieces are put together for two full dress rehearsals leading up to opening night.

Composer

Georges Bizet
(1838 – 1875)

Georges Bizet, original name Alexandre-César-Léopold Bizet (born October 25, 1838, Paris, France—died June 3, 1875, Bougival, near Paris), French composer best remembered for his opera Carmen (1875). His realistic approach influenced the verismo school of opera at the end of the 19th century.

Bizet’s father was a singing teacher and his mother a gifted amateur pianist, and his musical talents declared themselves so early and so unmistakably that he was admitted to the Paris Conservatoire before he had completed his 10th year. There, his teachers included the accomplished composers Charles Gounod and Fromental Halévy, and he quickly won a succession of prizes, culminating in the Prix de Rome, awarded for his cantata Clovis et Clotilde in 1857. This prize carried with it a five-year state pension, two years of which musicians were bound to spend at the French Academy in Rome.

Bizet had already shown a gift for composition far superior to that of a merely precocious boy. His first stage work, the one-act operetta Le Docteur miracle, performed in Paris in 1857, is marked simply by high spirits and an easy mastery of the operetta idiom of the day. His Symphony in C Major, however, written in 1855 but subsequently lost and not discovered and performed until 1935, will bear easy comparison with any of the works written at the same age of 17 by either Mozart or Felix Mendelssohn. Flowing and resourceful counterpoint, orchestral expertise, and a happy blend of the Viennese classical style with French melody give the symphony a high place in Bizet’s output.

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The young composer was already aware of his gifts and of the danger inherent in his facility. “I want to do nothing chic,” he wrote from Rome, “I want to have ideas before beginning a piece, and that is not how I worked in Paris.” In Rome he set himself to study Robert Schumann, Carl Maria von Weber, Mendelssohn, and Gounod, who was regarded as more than half a German composer by the admirers of the fashionable French composer Daniel Auber.

Mozart’s music affects me too deeply and makes me really unwell. Certain things by Rossini have the same effect; but oddly enough Beethoven and Meyerbeer never go so far as that. As for Haydn, he has sent me to sleep for some time past.

Instead of spending his statutory third year in Germany, he chose to stay on in Rome, where he collected impressions that were eventually collected to form a second C major symphony (Roma), first performed in 1869. An Italian-text opera, Don Procopio, written at this time, shows Donizetti’s style, and the ode Vasco de Gama is largely modeled on Gounod and Meyerbeer.

When Bizet returned to Paris in the autumn of 1860, he was accompanied by his friend Ernest Guiraud, who was to be responsible for popularizing Bizet’s work after his death. In spite of very decided opinions, Bizet was still immature in his outlook on life (youthfully cynical, for instance, in his attitude toward women) and was plagued by an artistic conscience that accused him of preferring the facilely charming in music to the truly great. He was even ashamed of his admiration for the operas of his Italian contemporary Giuseppe Verdi and longed for the faith and vision of the typical Romantic artist, which he could never achieve. “I should write better music,” he wrote in October 1866 to his friend and pupil Edmond Galabert, “if I believed a lot of things which are not true.” In fact the skepticism and materialism of the dominant Positivist philosophy persistently troubled Bizet; it may well have been an inability to reconcile his intelligence with his emotions that caused him to embark on so many operatic projects that he never brought to a conclusion. The kind of drama demanded by the French operatic public of the day could very seldom engage his whole personality. The weaknesses in the first two operas that he completed after his return to Paris are a result not so much of the composer’s excessive regard for public taste as of his flagging interest in the drama. Neither Les Pêcheurs de perles (The Pearl Fishers; first performed 1863) nor La Jolie Fille de Perth (1867; The Fair Maid of Perth) had a libretto capable of eliciting or focusing the latent musical and dramatic powers that Bizet eventually proved to possess. The chief interest of Les Pêcheurs de perles lies in its exotic Oriental setting and the choral writing, which is more individual than that of the lyrical music, over which Gounod still casts a long shadow. Although La Jolie Fille de Perth bears only a skeletal resemblance to Sir Walter Scott’s novel, the characterization is stronger (the gypsy Mab and the “Danse bohémienne” anticipate Carmen), and even such conventional features as the night patrol, the drinking chorus, the ballroom scene, and the heroine’s madness exhibit a freshness and elegance of language that raise the work unmistakably above the general level of French opera of the day.

Although warmly acknowledged by Berlioz, Gounod, Saint-Saëns, and Liszt, Bizet was still obliged during these years to undertake the musical hackwork that only the most successful French composers were able to avoid. Stories of his moodiness and readiness to pick a quarrel suggest a profound inner uncertainty, and the cynicism and vulnerability of adolescence hardly yielded to a mature emotional attitude of life until his marriage, on June 3, 1869, to Geneviève Halévy, the daughter of the composer of the opera La Juive (1835; The Jewess). Between his engagement in 1867 and his marriage, Bizet was himself aware of undergoing “an extraordinary change . . . both as artist and man. I am purifying myself and becoming better.” Adverse criticism of certain features of La Jolie Fille de Perth prompted him to break once and for all with “the school of flonflons, trills and falsehoods” and to concentrate his attention on the two elements that had always been the strongest features of his music—the creation of exotic atmosphere and the concern with dramatic truth. The first of these was brilliantly exemplified in the one-act Djamileh (1872), original enough to be accused of “exceeding even Richard Wagner in bizarrerie and strangeness”; and the second in the incidental music for Alphonse Daudet’s play L’Arlésienne (1872), which is marked by a delicacy and tenderness quite new to his music. Besides the happiness of his marriage, which was crowned by the birth of a son in July of this same year, his letters show that he was deeply stirred by the events of the Franco-Prussian War, and, during the siege of Paris, he served in the national guard.

Via britannica.com

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Conductor

Arthur Fagen

Arthur Fagen has been the Carl and Sally Gable music director at The Atlanta Opera since 2010, and continues to be in great demand as a conductor of symphony and opera both in Europe and the United States. He is a regular guest at the most prestigious opera houses, concert halls, and music festivals at home and abroad, and his career has been marked by a string of notable appearances including the Metropolitan Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Staatsoper Berlin, Munich State Opera, Deutsche Oper Berlin, and the New York City Opera.

A former assistant of Christoph von Dohnanyi (Frankfurt Opera) and James Levine (Metropolitan Opera), he served as principal conductor in Kassel and Brunswick, as chief conductor of the Flanders Opera of Antwerp and Ghent, as music director of the Queens Symphony Orchestra, and as a member of the conducting staff of the Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Fagen was born in New York and studied with Laszlo Halasz, Max Rudolf (Curtis Institute) and Hans Swarowsky. Fagen has an opera repertoire of more than 75 works and has recorded for Naxos and BMG. The recent Naxos recording of Martinůs works was awarded Editor’s Choice in the March 2010 issue of Gramophone Magazine.

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Director

Brenna Corner*

Brenna Corner has worked as a director, singer, choreographer, and fight director across Canada, the United States, and Europe. Last season she made her directorial debut with Vancouver Opera as the director of their new production of Hansel and Gretel. Ms. Corner is also the artistic director of Prince George’s new opera company Fraser Lyric Opera as well as Winnipeg’s indie opera company Manitoba Underground Opera.

Past directing projects include: The Four Note Opera (Yulunda M. Faris Vancouver Opera Young Artist Program), Cendrillon and Alcina (Manitoba Underground Opera), Béatrice et Benedict (Fraser Lyric Opera), Die Lustig Witwe (Vancouver Music Academy), La Clemenza di Tito (Manitoba Underground Opera), The Turn of the Screw and Don Giovanni (Accademia Europea dell’Opera); Summer Opera Workshop 2013 & 2012 (Indiana University).

She is also a certified member of Fight Directors Canada and has choreographed many fights for both opera and theatre. Brenna has a degree in music from The University of Manitoba, and theatre diplomas from Grant MacEwan College and The British American Drama Academy.

 *2016-17 Atlanta Opera Studio artist
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