Showing posts with label Carmen. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Carmen. Show all posts

Sunday, March 26, 2023

REVIEW: Carmen at Lyric Opera On Stage Through April 7, 2023

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One of the world’s most beloved operas returns to Chicago 
March 11 – April 7, 2023

Review of Carmen at Lyric Opera
By Catherine Hellmann, Guest Critic 

“If I love you, beware!” declares Carmen in Act I. Well, she warns the gullible soldier Don Jose right from the start, but he welcomes the danger. (shake my head…) 

J’Nai Bridges is a very seductive, beautiful Carmen who is hard to resist. Her Carmen is sexy and captivating. She is playful and confident---I loved when she chugged wine straight from the bottle at the bar. 

In contrast is the very sweet Micaela, a girl from Don Jose’s hometown, who brings a letter from his mother. Golda Schultz was making her Lyric debut as Micaela and has a gorgeous voice. She and Don Jose have a beautiful duet; Jose’s mother urges him to marry Micaela. But bad-girl Carmen is just too alluring for Don Jose. (sung by handsome tenor Charles Castronovo)

Carmen urges Don Jose to abandon the Army. He refuses until his commanding officer Lieutenant Zuniga approaches with hopes of seeing Carmen himself. A jealous Don Jose, in a very poor career move, strikes Zuniga. Don Jose is now like Pee Wee Herman: “a loner…a rebel.” 

The revolutionaries sing “when conniving, it’s good to have women along,” so Carmen is their girl. (ah, those sexist lyrics…the opera was first performed in 1875.) After her fling with Don Jose, Carmen quickly moves on to bullfighter Escamillo. 
A very awkward moment occurs when there is silence between Acts III and IV while sets are changed for new scenes. Some music from the orchestra and that gorgeous, familiar score would have been appreciated. My sis recognized much of the music, from the “Habanera” in Act I to the “Toreador Song” in Act II. Carmen is often the first introduction to opera for many audience members.   

The Lyric Opera Chorus and the Uniting Voices Chicago (UVC, formerly the Chicago Children’s Choir) do an admirable job as always. I’m often reminded of a Cecil B. DeMille movie with its “cast of thousands” since the Lyric productions are so epic. The costumes are gorgeous by Robert Perdziola, especially the ladies’ gowns and the bullfighters’ outfits with lots of sequins. 

By the end, Carmen is dead, having been stabbed by her former lover, Don Jose, when she rejects him. (“Does someone always die in an opera?” questioned my sister. “Usually,” I answered.) Oh, Don Jose…you should have listened to your mother. 

Catherine Hellmann teaches downtown at a cool charter school. She loves theater, Chicago history, museums, reading, walking, and finding new restaurants. (Riding the CTA daily sometimes provides the best live performances in the city!) She needs to get to Hawaii to claim all 50 states visited.  

Opera’s legendary femme fatale returns to Lyric Opera of Chicago with Bizet’s Carmen — March 11 – April 7, 2023 — starring J’Nai Bridges, a leading interpreter of the famous title role and a singer with deep Chicago roots. Audiences are invited to experience one of opera’s greatest hits, featuring iconic music that is instantly recognizable even for those new to the art form.

The diva you know and love. BET has described two-time Grammy Award winner J’Nai Bridges as “the Beyoncé of the opera world.” As Carmen, a signature role she has portrayed around the globe, that description couldn’t be more accurate. An alumna of Lyric’s Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center training program and a Kennedy Center Next 50 cultural leader, the mezzo-soprano makes her triumphant return to the Lyric stage. Bridges has appeared in more than 15 productions at Lyric and continues to shine as an unparalleled talent in opera.

A star-studded cast. Bridges is joined by Charles Castronovo as Don José. A critically acclaimed tenor, he was last seen at Lyric during the 2021/22 Season as Nemorino in The Elixir of Love. He is joined by South African soprano Golda Schultz as Micaëla in her Lyric debut. Schultz is the 2022 winner of the prestigious Bavarian Culture Prize, with the citation proclaiming that “a fantastic firework of tones fills the stage when Golda Schultz sings.” The first prize winner in the 2019 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition, Ukrainian baritone Andrei Kymach sings the role of the charismatic bullfighter Escamillo in his Lyric debut.

An international supporting cast of future stars. This production of Carmen is heightened by members of the Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center Ensemble. Mexican soprano Denis Vélez is Frasquita and mezzo-soprano and Michigan native Katherine DeYoung is Mercédès. Hailing from New York, tenor Ryan Capozzo is Remendado, while Colombian baritone Laureano Quant is Dancaïre. Bass Wm. Clay Thompson, a Kentucky native, is Zuniga, and baritone Wisconsinite Ian Rucker joins his fellow Ensemble members as Moralès. Rounding out this stellar cast is Mexican tenor Alejandro Luévanos as Lillas Pastia. 

Opera’s biggest blockbuster. The immensely talented Lyric Opera Orchestra will be led by accomplished conductor Henrik Nánási, who is acclaimed for his performances of Carmen in one of opera’s biggest theaters, the Arena di Verona. At Lyric, he was last seen during the 2019/20 Season in Madama Butterfly, and made a memorable debut in the 2015/16 Season leading Le nozze di Figaro. He served as general music director at Komische Oper Berlin from 2012 to 2017. Nánási is joined by talented stage director Marie Lambert-Le Bihan, whose work at Lyric includes La clemenza di Tito in the 2013/14 Season and Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg in the 2012/13 Season.

A proper operatic spectacle, Carmen features the talents of set designer Robin Don, costume design by Robert Perdziola, and lighting design from Chris Maravich. This production also includes a children’s chorus featuring members of Uniting Voices Chicago, led by Josephine Lee. As always, Lyric’s brilliant chorus will be directed by chorus master Michael Black. 

Dance the night away. This spirited production of Carmen features choreography from Stephanie Martinez. An award-winning Chicago-based dance artist and founder of the acclaimed PARA.MAR Dance Theatre, she was awarded Joffrey Ballet’s “Winning Works: Choreographers of Color” commission in 2015. Martinez is assisted by Noelle Kayser alongside ballet instruction courtesy of August Tye.

New to opera? Start with a certified classic. Carmen has cemented itself in popular culture with its iconic music and irresistibly tragic story. Audiences will fall in love with opera’s fiercest heroine, so get ready for the biggest operatic sensation of the season — only at Lyric Opera of Chicago. 

Important to know
· Eight chances to see Carmen: March 11, 15 (matinee), 19 (matinee), 22, 25, 30 (matinee), April 2 (matinee), and 7.
· Sung in French, with projected English titles.
· A total running time of 3 hours and 25 minutes, including two intermissions.
· For updated information about Lyric’s ongoing initiatives regarding health and safety protocols, visit
Lyric’s presentation of Bizet’s Carmen is generously made possible by Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP, Liz Stiffel, and the Lauter McDougal Charitable Fund.

Lyric Opera of Chicago thanks its Official Airline, American Airlines, and acknowledges support from the Illinois Arts Council Agency.
About Lyric

Lyric Opera of Chicago is committed to redefining what it means to experience great opera. The company is driven to deliver consistently excellent artistry through innovative, relevant, celebratory programming that engages and energizes new and traditional audiences.

Under the leadership of General Director, President & CEO Anthony Freud, Music Director Enrique Mazzola, and Special Projects Advisor Renée Fleming, Lyric is dedicated to reflecting, and drawing strength from, the diversity of Chicago. Lyric offers, through innovation, collaboration, and evolving learning opportunities, ever-more exciting, accessible, and thought-provoking audience and community experiences. We also stand committed to training the artists of the future, through The Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center; and to becoming increasingly diverse across our audiences, staff, programming, and artists—magnifying the welcoming pull of our art form, our company, and our city.

Through the timeless power of voice, the splendor of a great orchestra and chorus, theater, dance, design, and truly magnificent stagecraft, Lyric is devoted to immersing audiences in worlds both familiar and unexpected, creating shared experiences that resonate long after the curtain comes down.

Join us @LyricOpera on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. #LongLivePassion

For more information, visit

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