The Southern Opera and Musical Theatre Company at The University of Southern Mississippi will open a new production of the sensational music drama Carmen Feb. 18 and 20 at 7:30 p.m. in the Mannoni Performing Arts Center Auditorium. Glorious voices, sets, costumes, props and lights are accompanied by the incomparable Symphony Orchestra in this enormous production.
Bizet’s Carmen is a story of love gone wrong, based on the French novella of the same name by Prosper Mérimée. This timeless story of love, danger and betrayal has been enjoyed hundreds of thousands of performances worldwide. The famous music is so ingrained into our popular culture that audiences immediately recognize its famous melodies and infamous characters. Carmen, the beautiful, exotic, sensuous and dangerous gypsy seduces Don José, an army corporal, into the life of a common criminal by singing her “Habanera.” Later, Escamillo, Carmen’s new love interest and an ensemble cast of raucous gypsies and smugglers escalate the dramatic tension of the tale to its tragic end.
This is the story the audience sees. What they don’t see is what it takes to make such a production. When people come to the opera, they see singers on the stage, and they might notice the orchestra in the pit, but what they don’t see is what goes on before the production, behind the scenes, and after is very complicated, time consuming and labor intensive.
From carpenters to electricians; painters to costume designers; people who set up the orchestra pit; people who set up the stage; crews to work backstage; sound technicians and lighting designers, there is an enormous number of people that are involved and the amount of time that it takes to produce a production the scale of Carmen, grows exponentially .
“It is a pleasure to be involved with it, but at the same time, you have to have a team of people that you can depend on, and who do it mostly because they love what we are doing,” said Dr. Jay Dean. “I am excited to be a part of it and I am thrilled with the quality of work and time the cast and crew have put into it.”
For the Southern Miss production of Carmen, there are 50-plus members of the cast and orchestra, and a production team including the director, Joseph Levitt and the Producer/Conductor, Dr. Dean. In addition, there are coaches, like Kirstin Chavez, Richard Nechamkin, and Dr. Elizabeth Anglin, who work with the principles characters on their character development and French diction and translation.
“It was such a joy for me to come and be involved in the singers' final preparation for their roles in Carmen,” said Metropolitan Opera mezzo-soprano Kirsten Chavez. “They were all wonderfully prepared, and we just added elements of dramatic intention, relationship and character physicality. After my week's visit, I knew that the show would be a smashing success.”
Director Joseph Levitt, a seasoned stage professional from Indianapolis, Ind. adds, “It has been a rewarding experience working with the students here at Southern Miss. I have always found working with students much more rewarding in the long run. I take a great deal of pleasure and enjoyment from bringing the opera world and my professional experience to these students who someday will hopefully enter the professional market. If I can help them along the way, and give them some knowledge that they can take out into the real world then I have done my job.”
Tickets for Carmen are available at the Southern Miss Ticket Office, 800.844.8425, 601.266.5418. Adult reserved seating is $15 - $25. Students with ID are free. This production is made possible by a generous grant from Partners for the Arts.