by: Scott Andrews
July 18, 2016
She’s ba-a-a-a-ck. That’s the word from PORTopera, which will be be returning for its 22nd season next week with two performances of George Bizet’s “Carmen.”
Who is Carmen? She is a beautiful and passionate Gypsy woman, a fiery and flirtacious temptress who loves being the center of attention and won’t let anything or anyone stand in her way. She is the titular character in one of the most popular operas ever written, both in terms of total productions and tickets sold.
The action takes place in various locales in Spain, but the libretto is in French, written by Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halevy. English supertitles will be projected on a screen above the stage.
First presented in Paris in 1875, “Carmen” is also one of the most accessible operas, and two of Bizet’s tunes, “Habanera” and “Toreador Song,” have achieved huge and lasting popularity outside the opera house.
This year marks PORTopera’s third production of “Carmen.” The company debuted with Bizet’s masterpiece in 1995 – a Portland cultural milestone that set the tone for a successful venture that’s still going strong. I love this company; I was in the audience for its first performance and have attended every year since then.
Returning for her 22nd season is artistic director Dona D. Vaughn, who boasts vast experience at the helm of dozen of productions in New York and other cities.
The top four members of her 2016 cast are all singers with prior experience at the Metropolitan Opera, the top company in the U.S. The title role will be portrayed by mezzo-soprano Maya Lahyani, the first Israeli-born singer to perform a major role at the Met.
Her first lover, a naive soldier, will be played by tenor Adam Diegel, who is singing his third role with PORTopera this year. Soon after their romance begins, he is rejected in favor of a celebrity bullfighter, played by baritone Ed Parks, who is also singing his third role with PORTopera this season.
The fourth principal, a simple village girl, will be sung by soprano Amanda Woodbury, who won the 2014 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions.
Leading a professional orchestra of about 35 will be Stephen Lord, one of several guest conductors who have worked with Vaughn and PORTopera over the years.
PORTopera presents “Carmen” for two 7:30 p.m. performances, July 27 and July 29, at Merrill Auditorium at Portland City Hall. Call PortTix at 842-0800.