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At LLT, Met Live’s reinvigorated ‘Carmen’ has modern-day relevance

Lakeside Little Theatre (LLT) and the Chapala Opera Guild offer “Carmen,” the fifth of a nine-opera Met Live in HD replay series Saturday, Sunday and Monday, February 24 to 26, 4 p.m.

pg20aThe Met presents a vital new production of one of opera’s most enduringly powerful works. Acclaimed English director Carrie Cracknell makes her Met debut, reinvigorating the classic story with a staging that moves the action to the modern day and finds at the heart of the drama issues that could not be more relevant today: gendered violence, abusive labor structures, and the desire to break through societal boundaries.

Written in the genre of opéra comique with musical numbers separated by dialogue, Carmen is set in southern Spain and tells the story of the downfall of Don José, a naïve soldier who is seduced by the wiles of the fiery gypsy Carmen. José abandons his childhood sweetheart and deserts his military duties, yet loses Carmen’s love to the glamorous torero Escamillo, after which José kills her in a jealous rage. The depictions of proletarian life, immorality, and lawlessness, and the tragic death of the main character on stage, broke new ground in French opera and were highly controversial.

The score of Carmen contains so many instantly recognizable melodies that it can be easy to overlook how well constructed it is. The orchestra brings to life a wide palette of sound. The major solos are excellent combinations of arresting melody and dramatic purpose, most notably the baritone’s famous Act II Toreador Song (“Votre toast, je peux vous le rendre ... Toréador, en garde”), the tenor’s wrenching Flower Song (“La fleur que tu m’avais jetée”) in Act II, and Micaëla’s soaring Act III aria (“Je dis que rien ne m’épouvante”).

Sung in French with titles in English, the estimated run time is 3:30. Acts I and II are 100 minutes, an intermission of 45 minutes and acts III and IV are 65 minutes.

Coming up next at LLT: Giuseppe Verdi’s “La Forza del Destino” March 18, 4 p.m.

Tickets online at lakesidelittletheatre.org or the theater box office.

Howard Willis

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