Produced by: West Bay Opera
Featuring: mezzo-soprano Nikola Printz as Carmen, tenor Salvatore Atti as Don José, baritone Krassen Karagiozov as Escamillo, soprano Maria Fernanda Brea as Micaela, Maya Kherani as Frasquita, Anna Yelizarova as Mercedes, Kiril Havezov as Zuniga, Carmello Tringali as Remendado, Jackson Beaman as Morales/Dancaïro, and members of Ragazzi Boys Chorus
Conducted by: José Luis Moscovich
Directed by: Richard Harrell
When: 8 p.m. Friday, May 25 and Saturday, June 2; 2 p.m. Sunday, May 27 and Sunday, June 3, 2018
Where: Lucie Stern Theatre, 1305 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto
Tickets: $40-$85; call 650-424-9999 (preferred), or visit www.WBOpera.org.
it has never, ever, known a law'
'Carmen,' well sung at Lucie Stern Theatre
Georges Bizet's 1875 "Carmen" is one of the most popular operas ever composed, which is borne out by the fact that West Bay Opera has already sold nearly every seat for its four performances of the masterpiece.
"It's pretty crazy, like only two or three tickets left for each performance," said West Bay Opera General Director José Luis Moscovich on May 18, "But there is always some amount of returns. People who have to cancel at the last moment. People who don't have a ticket should not give up."
"Carmen" opened on Friday, repeated on Sunday, shows remain for June 2 and June 3. People who want to see this romantic tragedy, the story of the sultry Carmen, the naïve Don José and the sexy Escamillo, should just show up at the Lucie Stern Theatre in Palo Alto, with hope in their hearts and money in their hands.
Under Moscovich's direction, West Bay Opera has staged thrilling opera after thrilling opera. And this "Carmen" is another dramatic, fabulously realized production.
When interviewed, Moscovich said the company and he had been rehearsing seven hours a day in two sessions — "This is a pretty demanding piece for the conductor, for everyone," said Moscovich. "It's going fabulously," said Moscovich. "The cast is really tremendous. We're at the point (on May 18) where we're beginning to really capture the spirit of this piece.
"It has a very specific style, and we have to capture that or it sounds trite and boring. The ensemble especially is coming to life, and the chorus is sounding very strong ... they are really singing their hearts out. It's really very rewarding."
Moscovich said he has "made a point to treat it as if it were a new piece, to try to discover what is truly in the score.
"It is a Frenchman's idea of what Spain was like. So it's not a Spanish piece, it's French music with a Spanish tinge."
West Bay Opera brought in a large orchestra by Lucie Stern Theatre standards — 33 pieces — and Moscovich is again putting some of the musicians on stage, and some in the pit, as he did with "Salome" in 2017.
In the past, orchestras have sometimes been split between the pit and the far backstage or the basement, and microphoned.
"On stage is better, they can hear each other, hear the singers," said Moscovich.
Something new this year is the addition of singers from Ragazzi Boys Chorus, which is based in Redwood City.
"Raggazi is fabulous," said Moscovich. "They came in very well prepared, coached well … the kids are really into it. They are very enthusiastic, great troopers. They sound excellent, sound strong. We're really happy about it.
"The kids are having their first experience in an opera chorus. It's very important that they have a good experience — and it's important that they have fun."
The cast features mezzo-soprano Nikola Printz in the title role, and tenor Salvatore Atti as Don José. Baritone Krassen Karagiozov appears as Escamillo, and Venezuelan soprano Maria Fernanda Brea returns as Micaela (she'd been in West Bay Opera's "Elixir of Love" some years ago). Also in the cast are Maya Kherani as Frasquita, Anna Yelizarova as Mercedes, Kiril Havezov as Zuniga, Carmello Tringali as Remendado, Jackson Beaman as Morales/Dancaïro, and members of Ragazzi Boys Chorus.
The production is set in 1930's Seville, during the Spanish Civil War, "affording it a fascinating backdrop for the exploration of social, political and gender issues that are part of the story," said Moscovich in email.
"Our 'Carmen' is set in 1930's Seville, during the Spanish Civil War," said Moscovich. "This gives us an opportunity to recast Carmen's Gypsy friends as republicans (no, not the ones in DC, but rather the left-leaning ones in Spain at the time), resisting the inexorable advance of fascist power represented by General Franco. It's a chance to update the social and political conflict that underlies the original score in a way that will perhaps feel closer to today's climate of uncertainty, transgression and divisiveness in the U.S."
Costumes are by Abra Berman, sets were designed by Peter Crompton, video projections are by Frédéric Boulay, makeup design is by Lisa Cross and props design by Shirley Benson. Kerentsa DeMars, artistic director of the San Francisco Flamenco Dance Company, is flamenco movement coach and choreography consultant.
Email John Orr at email@example.com