A View from the Cliff: “Carmen” opens at Regina Opera

The power, passion and pageantry of 19th Century bullfights is the setting for one of the most famous scenes in Bizet’s “Carmen.” The compelling story of betrayal and self destruction receives a skillful treatment by the Regina Opera Company.

At May 16’s opening performance, the audience included opera aficionados along with several parents and children from a local elementary school. Clearly, appreciation for operatic composers and those involved in opera’s production and performance is a worthy subject for study.

Exuberant Conductor Jose Alejandro Guzman led his orchestra with expected expertise. The complicated musical patterns were skillfully performed by the strings, woodwinds, brass and percussion, numbering more than thirty musicians. Two of the most famous operatic songs- “Toreador” and “La Habanera” were well played, as expected.

Producer Francine Garber-Cohen, ever present from start to finish, offered her usual greetings. Director Linda Lehr’s skillful guidance was obvious in the set design and fight sequences. Bright, beautiful costumes (Julia Cornely), lighting design (Tyler Learned), English supertitles (Linda Cantoni) and props (Irene George) are just a few of the many behind the scenes supports required to keep Regina Opera strong, as it completes its 45th season.

In all four acts, the most mesmerizing opening sequences involved two ballet dancers who foreshadowed the upcoming events. Bravos to Wendy Chu and Christian-Philippe Consigny.

The story itself involves a noble soldier, Don Jose, who is led astray by a free spirited, immoral woman. She leads him down a path of corruption that ultimately leads to their mutual downfall. Although written in the late 1800s, this storyline and its music have appeared again and again in every visual and musical medium.

Portraying voluptuous Carmen, mezzo soprano Lara Tillotson plays her role with brash, beguiling strength. As Don Jose, tenor Michael Morrow gives power and emotion to his anguished final scene. His broken hearted Micaela (soprano) is intensely played by Stacey Canterbury. Her pain over her lost love is truly visible. Swaggering toreador Escamillo (Nathan Matticks) is a successful counterpoint to Don Jose’s vulnerable personality. A half dozen supporting players, and a dozen ensemble performers too numerous to name individually, rotate their roles depending on the date of the performance.

The Regina Opera Company is housed at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Auditorium, 5902 Sixth Avenue in Brooklyn. For information on this and future productions, call (718) 259-2772 or surf to www.reginaopera.org. As always, save me a seat on the aisle.

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