As one of the world’s favourite operas, Carmen has all the elements for a fantastic night in the theatre – love, lust, glory, fame, passion, jealousy, betrayal, anguish and death. Carmen takes over the State Theatre at Arts Centre Melbourne for 10 days of Spanish-inspired passion in May.
More than just taking the stage, Carmen’s influence will transform the forecourt of the Arts Centre into a Spanish piazza, La Plaza del Carmen, with Flamenco dancers, a mariachi band and Spanish-inspired food including tapas and sangria, setting the mood before each night’s performance. At interval, everyone in the audience will be offered a complimentary drink and canapés, all adding up to a truly Spanish night out.
Carmen is the quintessential femme fatale – hot-tempered and fiery, embracing every opportunity, no matter what stands in her way. Because the opera is playing on consecutive nights, Opera Australia is presenting not one, but two of the world’s best Carmens, who will alternate performances – Spanish sensation Nancy Fabiola Herrera and Serbian siren Milijana Nikolic.
This magnificent production conjures the heat and passion of 19thcentury Seville in southern Spain. With its infectious melodies and richly coloured sets and costumes in burnt oranges and dusty golds, Director Francesca Zambello’s much-lauded Carmen is all about high drama, high emotion, and very, very high stakes when a man renounces his career and family for the allure for an all-consuming love.
Nancy Fabiola Herrera’s show-stopping performances as Carmen have taken her to theatres and festivals across the globe including Metropolitan Opera in New York, Royal Opera House in London, Los Angeles Opera, and Berlin Deutsche Oper. She appears regularly in concert as well as opera and has twice shared the stage with Placido Domingo.
Milijana Nikolic seduced audiences at Opera Australia’s sensational Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour in 2013 with a Carmen that was sexy and commanding. She has sung leading mezzo-soprano roles throughout Europe, Asia, Australia and New Zealand including Carmen for the Savolinna Festival in Finland. Now based in Australia, Ms Nikolic frequently travels to Europe for performances.
Francesca Zambello’s production is an ideal setting for this passionate story, vividly evoking heat, dust and danger, and based on a production for Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, with sets and costumes designed by Tanya McCallin. Audiences love the fact that the Carmen ensemble shares the stage with two very well trained horses, one an experienced opera performer, and the other making her season debut!
Carmen is a gypsy who works in a cigarette factory. She’s wild, seductive, irresistible, and always at the centre of any trouble. When a fight breaks out at the factory she is arrested and put under the guard of a soldier Don José. He’s a good man at heart but he doesn’t stand a chance against the feminine wiles of Carmen.
She seduces him into letting her escape, then persuades him to join her gang of gypsy bandits. Meanwhile, the great Escamillo, a victorious bullfighter, also lays claim to Carmen. Don José is jealous, Carmen is fatalistic, hearts are broken and it all ends in true tragic operatic style amidst a flurry of passion, lust and longing.
Joining Nancy Fabiola Herrera and Milijana Nikolic as the doomed Don José are Canadian tenor David Pomeroy, who is garnering international acclaim for his rich voice and thrilling top notes, performing at The Met, throughout Canada and the UK; and Bradley Daly, who Melbourne audiences will know as Curley in Of Mice and Men (for which he won a Green Room Award) and Mao Tse-tung in Victorian Opera’s Nixon in China (2013). With them is a star-studded line-up of Opera Australia Principal Singers, including Michael Honeyman, Shane Lowrencev, Natalie Aroyan and Daria Masiero.
A prodigious talent, Georges Bizet wrote Carmen in 1873, while in his mid-30s. At its first season at Opéra-Comique in Paris in 1875, it received an initially lukewarm response. Tragically, Bizet died in this same year, never to know that Carmen would become his signature work.
The character of Carmen lives on in many different guises: there have been films, plays, ballets and musicals based on the original, including Oscar Hammerstein’s Carmen Jones, which recasts the Toreador’s Song as a boxer’s song, ‘Stand up and fight until you hear the bell…’ Bizet would have been proud.
This production of Carmen is based on the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden and Norwegian National Opera co-production, first performed in Covent Garden in 2006.
Conductor: Brian Castles-Onion Director: Francesca Zambello Revival Director: Matthew Barclay Set & Costume Designer: Tanya McCallin Lighting Designer: Paule Constable Choreographer: Arthur Pita Fight Chorographer: Felicity Steel
State Theatre – Arts Centre Melbourne, St Kilda Road, Melbourne
Season: 14 – 25 May 2014
Bookings: 1300 182 183 or online at: www.artscentremelbourne.com.au
For more information, visit: www.opera.org.au for details.
Image: Nancy Fabiola Herrera as Carmen & the Opera Australia Chorus – photo by Branco Gaica.