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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    “Carmen” opera a joy for beginners and connoisseurs alike

    Sylvain Guichard (CC BY 3.0)
    A still from a performance of the opera “Carmen” in February 2008. “Carmen” delights both opera novices and experienced theater goers.

    If you have never experienced opera, the exhilarating and resilient “Carmen”, is an introduction that should not be missed. 

    “It’s the greatest opera ever written. Nothing compares to ‘Carmen,’” said Beth Greenberg, UA assistant professor of music and opera stage director. “[Carmen] has the perfect trifecta: it has sumptuous music, the characters are in their musical element and it’s entertaining.” 

    Originally set in Spain in the 1820s, “Carmen” is the story of a love triangle between a beautiful and heartbreaking gypsy, a battle-hardened soldier and a bullfighter. This production of “Carmen,” directed by Tara Faircloth, is set in the 1930s instead.

    “It’s a timeless story, comfortable in this century as well as the middle ages,” Faircloth said. “It’s important that we set [Carmen] in a time period that is relatable. For a modern audience, seeing people in a more modern silhouette is more relatable.” 

    Mezzo-soprano Daniela Mack plays Carmen, the sultry gypsy woman at the center of the love triangle and the opera. 

    “[Carmen is] a role that I’ve lived with for a very long time. It’s a meatier role, and it’s marinated in my mind for a long time,” Mack said. 

    When asked about the pressure of playing such a key role in the history of opera, she said, “I try to shy away from expectations, and I try to look at [Carmen] with a fresh eye.” 

    A fresh perspective has been applied to the entirety of the production. 

    “[The] Arizona Opera is very open to taking a chance on something that is unexpected,” Mack said.

    “Carmen” has been interpreted and reinterpreted for the stage so many times, giving room for creative freedom.  

    “Great operas like [Carmen] are completely indestructible,”  Greenberg said. 

    Indestructible is an apt description for the opera and for good reason. “Carmen is a ridiculously great night at the theatre—it’s violent, there’s lots of sex and there’s beautiful women everywhere,” Faircloth said. 

    She explained that she has a great set of fight coordinators and an excellent stunt team.

    “It’s a very violent production,” Faircloth said. “There’s a nice electricity in the air to see that kind of violence in real life rather than limited to the film screen.” 

    The music of “Carmen” is legendary. There are many recognizable themes and melodies, even for those with no experience in classical music. Recognizable tunes include the “Habanera,” the “Toreador song” and more. 

    “[Carmen] has big numbers that people know, even if they don’t know what it’s from,” Mack said.  “It’s music that’s stood the test of time.” 

    While opera can be a daunting art form to an inexperienced novice, the music of “Carmen” puts it among the most accessible of all operas. 

    “It’s effortless music,” Greenberg said. “It’s the only opera that comes close to being a good first opera because the music is so magnificent.”

    All of these elements give “Carmen” the potential to be fantastic. 

    “Hearing a live orchestra is an experience like nothing else,”  Faircloth said.

    Given the cast rapport, modern interpretation of a timeless story and fantastic music, “Carmen” is magnificent both as a first opera and for the seasoned opera fan. 

    While the opera is completely in French, there will be supertitles—scrolling English captions suspended above the performers—for the audience.

    As Faircloth said, “We’re very interested in attracting younger audiences.”

    Tickets for “Carmen” are available at “Carmen” will be performed on Jan. 30 at 7:30 p.m. and Jan. 31 at 2:00 p.m. at the Tucson Music Hall. Two hours before each performance, students can buy tickets for $20 each with CatCard at the box office. Otherwise, tickets are available for $25, $45, $65, $85, $100 and $120.

    Follow Kincaid Rabb on Twitter

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