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OLE! Hot Opera Heats Up Cool Spring Nights


OLE! Hot Opera Heats Up Cool Spring Nights

The hottest opera event of 2004 is on its way! The Genesis Energy Spring Season of Bizet's Carmen is set to burst onto the stages of Wellington and Auckland this September-October in a sizzling new production from The NBR New Zealand Opera. An international opera cast and creative team bring together the spirit of Spain with all the passion, spectacle and famous melodies that have made Carmen one of the world's favourite operas.


Jessie Raven as she will appear in The NBR New Zealand Opera's new production - the Genesis Energy Spring Season of Bizet's CARMEN.

With its hot-blooded world of gypsies and bullfighters, Carmen is fiery entertainment. Its music is thrilling, its tragic drama compelling. Above all there is the most unforgettable "bad girl" of opera - the teasing and strong-willed gypsy Carmen. Under Carmen's spell, the soldier Don Jose deserts his sweetheart and throws away his career. But as Carmen tires of him and falls for the glamorous toreador Escamillo, she sets a lethal trap of passion.

In the coveted title role American dramatic mezzo-soprano, Jessie Raven, is a stunning Carmen. Raven has performed the role in many productions around the world wowing critics with her sumptuous and sensuous portrayal. Now it's New Zealand's turn! Making their New Zealand debuts, Puerto Rican tenor, Rafael Davila is the love-struck Don Jose and Latvian-born Pauls Putnins, the handsome toreador Escamillo. Wellington-based singer Jenny Wollerman is Don Jose's rejected sweetheart, Micaela.

British director Jonathan Cocker captures all the moods of Bizet's unmissable masterpiece.

"This is high temperature opera at its finest!" he says. "Carmen represents the spirit of Spain and we wanted to be true to that so we have stayed away from updating in time or context. There'll be the visual and emotional spectacle that audiences have come to expect however we're also determined not to overshadow the telling of the story and its emotional impact."

Designers John Verryt (sets), Elizabeth Whiting (costumes) and Marc Simpson (lighting) have kept within a relatively traditional historical framework for a story originally set in 19th century Spain. Verryt and Simpson have worked to create a painterly effect capturing the changes in emotional temperature as the story unfolds. With its parade of gypsies, cigarette girls, soldiers, smugglers, toreadors and picadors, over 300 costumes, 200 pairs of shoes and 50 wigs make Carmen one of the largest opera productions mounted by The NBR New Zealand Opera. Costume designer Elizabeth Whiting says every one of the 80-strong cast averages four costume changes, often transforming their characters – several chorus ladies begin the evening as nuns and finish as prostitutes.

Cocker says Carmen is full of individual characters right down to the youngest children's chorus member, which means that attention to detail helps create the atmosphere and support the narrative.

"This world is peopled with real, strong characters whose lives are full of trials. Life is hard and pleasure is intense. The juxtaposition of these two aspects is one of the driving forces behind the story. Carmen is actually a gritty, emotional drama alongside those toe-tapping tunes. There'll be no shortage of show-stopping moments."

Audiences can look forward to some of the most well-known opera music ever composed - "live", with the drama being played out and with design and dance coming together to deliver a "grand opera" experience. Talented French conductor, Emmanuel Plasson, is charged with leading the cast, accompanied by the NGC Wellington Sinfonia (in Wellington) and Auckland Philharmonia (in Auckland), through those familiar melodies - the seductive "Habanera", provocative "Seguidilla", the rousing "Toreador’s Song" or the romantic "Flower Song".

Guaranteed to take the chill off those cool spring nights, The Genesis Energy Spring Season of Carmen promises high temperature opera at its finest. Ole!

The Genesis Energy Spring Season of Carmen is at the Westpac St James Theatre, Wellington from 16-25 September and then at the Aotea Centre Auckland from 7-17 October.


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