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‘New’ Production Of ‘Carmen’ Ushers In Opera Theatre’s 30th Season

OSWEGO, NY – The curtain goes up tonight on a special presentation of “Carmen.”

The opera will be performed this evening (Oct. 30), at 8 and on Sunday at 2:30 p.m.; both performances are in Waterman Theatre in Tyler Hall on the SUNY Oswego campus.

Also appearing is a Children’s Chorus prepared by Opera Chorus members Rocky Farden, back right, and Bobby Palange, back left. They pose with the youngsters prior to a rehearsal earlier this week.
Also appearing is a Children’s Chorus prepared by Opera Chorus members Rocky Farden, back right, and Bobby Palange, back left. They pose with the youngsters prior to a rehearsal earlier this week.

“Carmen” will be sung in English, with spoken dialogues, in a new translation prepared over the summer by SUNY-Oswego Adjunct Professor Mack Richardson, according to Oswego Opera Theatre President Susan Swindells.

Richardson is also the company’s new artistic director and conductor, she added.

Oswego Opera Theatre picked Georges Bizet’s popular opera to open its 30th anniversary season because it is one of the top three (operas), “ABCs, as they’re called; ‘Aida,’ ‘La Boheme,’ and ‘Carmen,'” Swindells said.

“We did it about 17, 18 years ago. Certain classics you have to keep repeating,” she said.

The newly designed production of “Carmen” will include all the favorites well-known to audiences, as well as relatively new music not always heard in standard productions of the opera, Swindells noted.

Due to Bizet’s death only three months after “Carmen’s” premiere in 1875, there is no definitive score of the work.

However, during the past 40 years new research has returned much music to the score that Bizet originally wrote but was lost or dropped by musicians and producers over the years and which now will be heard in Oswego for the first time, she said.

The opera will also feature some high-tech wizardry.

Much of the scenery will be computer generated.

“Instead of a hard set, scenery will be projected,” Swindells explained. “There will be Picasso drawings of bull fights in the arena and at one point there will be a video of a bull fight.”

Sean Tribble, set designer, will also create the “smoke” for a scene at a cigarette factory.

“We decided we’d use projections as a way of bringing in scenery,” he explained. “It’s ever-changing. And we wanted to infuse a lot of emotional content as well as physical content.”

He has done projection work in other productions. But not to the large extent as in “Carmen,” he added.

How long does it take to prepare? “I’m still working on it,” he said Wednesday. “It’s ever-changing. It just keeps going. As the rehearsals progresses, the staging and actors progress we just keep changing with them. That’s why projection is such so helpful.”

The singers come from Oswego – and all over the world, Swindells noted.

Mezzo-Soprano Jennifer Nadig comes from San Francisco to perform the title role.

“She sang with us several times. She went to Syracuse University,” Swindells said. “She is going to be a blonde Carmen, not dark-haired.”

Tenor Mauricio O’Reilly and baritone Daesan No from New York City make their debuts as the doomed soldier Don José and the bullfighter Escamillo, respectively.

“Our Don Jose is Spanish,” Swindells pointed out. “But, he will be singing in English.”

The cast also include about nine youngsters from Hannibal, Fulton and Oswego who have performed in Children’s Theater.

“We have a wonderful cross-section of people. Our youngest cast member is 8 years old and our oldest is in his 70s. We have some people that this is their very first time on stage and some who are veterans, having performed at New York City Opera and in Europe.”

Casey Taylor, of OHS, is the assistant stage manager.

The job keeps her busy, she said.

“The rehearsals are fun. The actors are great to work with,” she said. “It’s been fun to see the show coming together so well. I’m used to working in the high school. It’s good experience to be able to work here with professional actors.”

The dancers are being prepared by local choreographer Lisa Carroll.

“Everything’s going really well. It’s nice to work with all the different ages. It’s really cool, yes. I’m enjoying it,” she said.

“It’s a hard-working, beautiful group of people,” Stage Director Rina Elisha, from the faculty of SUNY-Rockland, said of the opera’s cast and crew. “They are all giving a lot of themselves. Everybody truly cares about the production.”

The eclectic group is working very well, as if they have been together for a much longer time, she noted.

It’s also a great opportunity for the local actors, especially the youngsters, to be able to work alongside professionals, she pointed out.

“Working with the professionals now the young (actors) can see how far they can go and discover what they need to do to achieve their goals to become actors themselves,” she said. “It’s a very, very good opportunity for them.”

“Because of the length of this opera, at times I feel like it’s raising the Titanic with a fishing boat,” she said, adding someone told her she should have said “fishing rod.”

The chorus people are real stars, because they are on all the time, Elisha said.

“These people work daytime jobs and are only able to rehearse in the evenings. They have been pushing really hard,” she said.

Besides the Thursday and Sunday performances, A 30th Anniversary Gala will be held on Saturday, at 7 p.m. at the American Foundry.

Chef Steven Cook will delight taste buds with his culinary delicacies, while a feast for the ears will be presented by guest singers and opera alumni, Swindells said.

With assistance from SUNY Oswego Alumni Association, a reunion chorus is being assembled to sing choral favorites from past productions.

Oswego Opera alumni who are interested in singing in the chorus are asked to call Swindells at 342-1039 or Mary Lou Bjorkman at the Picture Connection, 343-2908.

An Opera Reunion Brunch will be held on Sunday, at noon in the SUNY Oswego Campus Center.

Brunch reservations are $15, and are available by calling the SUNY Alumni Office at 312-2258.

Rounding out the season will be the Oswego Opera Concert Series, spotlighting company favorites, sopranos Rose Cerklewicz and Elisabeth Kisselstein (Feb. 1 at 3 p.m.), and Bill Black, baritone (April 19 at 3 p.m.).

Having made his OOT debut in “Carmen,” Andrew Richardson, bass-baritone, will return to Oswego from Depauw University to present a recital on March 21 at 7:30 p.m.

All concerts will be held at First United Methodist Church on Route 104 West in Oswego.

Tickets for “Carmen” are on sale at the Tyler Hall Box Office, 315-312-2141, at $25, seniors $20, and students $15.

Information on memberships in the Oswego Opera Theatre, with accompanying discount offers and privileges, is available by calling 315-342-1039, writing to Oswego Opera Theatre, PO Box 3039, Oswego, NY 13126, or by email at [email protected]

Oswego Opera Theatre is supported by the New York State Council on the Arts, WRVO-FM Radio, Alliance Bank  Entergy, the Music and Theatre departments of SUNY Oswego, and “our wonderful patrons.”