Madison Opera presents Bizet’s masterpiece, “Carmen”

by | Oct 4, 2017 | 0 comments

Madison Opera presents Georges Bizet’s Carmen on Friday, November 3 at 8pm and Sunday, November 5 at 2:30pm in Overture Hall.  With some of the most famous music in opera, Bizet’s passionate opera is a vivid story of love, jealousy, and betrayal.

Set in 19th century Seville, the opera follows a gypsy determined to live life on her own terms – whatever her fate may be.  On a break from her shift at the cigarette factory, Carmen tosses a flower at a corporal named Don José, who ignores her advances.  Only after Carmen is arrested and placed in José’s custody does he begin to fall for her, breaking the law and abandoning his hometown sweetheart.  What follows is a torrid love affair of passion, agonizing rage, and fanatical desire that will change their lives forever.

Carmen is the reason I run an opera company,” says Kathryn Smith, Madison Opera’s General Director.  “I fell in love with opera as a teenager in the children’s chorus of a Carmen production, as its incredible score and intense story hooked me immediately – not to mention the sheer excitement of having principal artists, chorus, children’s chorus, dancers, and orchestra all come together to create this astonishing world.  I am so delighted to produce Carmen in Madison, with this spectacular cast and production team.”

Bizet’s Carmen is based on Prosper Mérimée’s novella of the same name and was written with librettists Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy.  At its premiere in Paris on March 3, 1875, audiences were shocked at its characters’ apparent lack of morality and virtue, and critics derided Bizet’s music.  Three months after the opera’s premiere, Bizet died of heart disease.  He was only 36 years old and would never know that his “flop” of an opera would become a global sensation over the next two centuries.

Carmen was the first opera I saw as a young teenager,” remembers Madison Opera’s Artistic Director, John DeMain. “It should be everyone’s first opera.  It is the perfect blend of musical theater and grand opera, with thrilling choruses, great tunes from start to finish, and a compelling story of ill-fated love.  And then there is Carmen herself, one of the most alluring characters of all time.  I love conducting this great opera, which is so gorgeously orchestrated.”

Madison Opera’s cast features both returning artists and debuts.  Making her debut in the title role is Aleks Romano, a rising young singer who Opera News recently praised for her “attractively smoky mezzo-soprano.”  Acclaimed tenor Sean Panikkar makes his role debut as Don José; he debuted with Madison Opera at Opera in the Park 2014, but this is his first mainstage appearance with the company.  Also returning to Madison Opera are Cecilia Violetta López as José’s hometown sweetheart Micaëla and Corey Crider as the toreador Escamillo.  López debuted at this past summer’s Opera in the Park; Crider sang the title role in Sweeney Todd with Madison Opera in 2015.

Thomas Forde, who most recently sang Luther/Crespel in Madison Opera’s The Tales of Hoffman, returns to play José’s commanding officer, Zuniga.  Studio artists Anna Polum and Megan Le Romero play Carmen’s friends Frasquita and Mercedes. Studio Artist Benjamin Liupaogo and Wisconsin native Erik Earl Larson play the smugglers, Remendado and Dancaïre.  Rounding out the cast is Charles Eaton in his debut as Morales.    

Directing this traditional staging is E. Loren Meeker in her first production for Madison Opera.  Meeker has directed at opera companies around the United States, including Lyric Opera of Chicago, Washington National Opera, the Glimmerglass Festival, and Wolf Trap Opera.

Carmen is a truly grand opera and features the Madison Opera Chorus, led by chorusmaster Anthony Cao; members of the Madison Youth Choirs; the Madison Symphony Orchestra; and dancers from Tania Tandias Flamenco and Spanish Dance.

Other events leading up to the opera can help the community learn more about CarmenOpera Novice: It’s a Flop! Operas That Got Bad Reviews takes place at on October 6 at the Madison Opera Center and offers a free, entertaining look at operas that were notorious flops when they premiered, including Carmen.  A free community preview will be held at Capitol Lakes Retirement Community on October 11Opera Up Close provides an in-depth discussion of Carmen, including a cast roundtable, on October 29.

Related event details and full cast and production information are enclosed. To request production photos, to schedule artist interviews, or for more information, please contact Marketing Manager Jonathan Schroerlucke at[email protected] or 608.238.8085.

Madison Opera’s production of Carmen is sponsored by the Pleasant T. Rowland Foundation, Millie & Marshall Osborn, Helen Wineke, Bert & Diane Adams, Lau & Bea Christensen Charitable Foundation, Marvin Levy, and Capitol Lakes.  Artist underwriting provided by E. David Cronon Trust.




Opera Novice: It’s a Flop! Operas That Got Bad Reviews

Friday, October 6, 2017, 6-7pm

The Margaret C. Winston Opera Center, 335 W. Mifflin Street

FREE and open to the public

New opera-goer?  Just want more insight?  Join General Director Kathryn Smith for a short, fun, and informative evening exploring operas that were notorious flops when they premiered, including Carmen.  Studio Artist Megan Le Romero will sing an aria from Carmen, and there will be plenty of time to ask questions.  It’s the perfect jump-start for the opera-curious.


Community Preview

Wednesday, October 11, 2017 | 7-8pm

Capitol Lakes, 333 W. Main Street

FREE and open to the public

Join us for a FREE preview of Carmen, featuring a multimedia presentation on Georges Bizet, the history of Carmen, and information on Madison Opera’s production. This is the perfect opportunity to learn more about the opera before you see it.


Opera Up Close

Sunday, October 29, 2017, 1-3pm

The Margaret C. Winston Opera Center, 335 W. Mifflin Street

$20 general admission; Free for full-season subscribers; $10 for two-show subscribers

Join us for a behind-the-scenes preview of Carmen, featuring multimedia presentations, historical perspectives, a behind-the-scenes look at Madison Opera’s production, and a roundtable with leading artists.  There’s no better way to get “Up Close” with Madison Opera.


Pre-Opera Talks

Friday, November 3 at 7pm and Sunday, November 5 at 1:30pm

Wisconsin Studio at Overture Center, free to ticket holders

Attend an entertaining half-hour introduction to Carmen one hour prior to curtain.


Post-Opera Q&A

Friday, November 3, and Sunday, November 5, following the performance

Wisconsin Studio at Overture Center, free to ticket holders

You’ve seen the opera and loved it. But are you perhaps wondering about…?  Join General Director Kathryn Smith immediately after the performances to ask questions about what you have just seen.


More information available at


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