November 11, 2016
Written by Georges Bizet, Carmen is one of the most well-known operas. The cast features Rhea Olivacce as Carmen, the exotic gypsy, who dominated every man she encountered. It follows the title character as she gains the favor of a soldier, Jose, who is already involved with Micaela all while the bullfighter, Escamillo, tries desperately to catch her attention.
A company of soldiers lounge at a street corner outside their post in Seville. The officer on guard, Morales, tries to flirt with Micaela, a shy young country girl who has come to ask for the brigadier Don Jose, but the girl retreats. Followed by a squad of urchins, the relief guard marches in, among them Don Jose. The cigarette girls saunter back to their factory. Carmen, a gypsy, appears last and is surrounded by her admirers, to whom she sings of the fickleness of love. Piqued by the indifference of Don Jose, she throws a Rower in his face and then retires with her companions to the factory. Micaela returns to give Jose a message of affection from his mother. When she modestly withdraws, Jose vows to marry her as his mother has wished. Suddenly there is an uproar in the cigarette factory and the girls pour out, crying that Carmen has wounded a fellow-worker. Brought before Zunig-a, Don Jose's captain, the gypsy defiantly resists arrest. She induces Jose to loosen her bonds by promising him a rendezvous; as the soldiers lead her to prison she breaks away.
In Lillas Pastia's tavern outside the walls of Seville, Carmen and her friends Frasquita and Mercedes describe the joys of gypsy life. The toreador Escamillo arrives with a party and recounts his adventures in the bullring; he is soon enammored of Carmen. All leave except the gypsy, who are persuaded by the smugglers Remendado and Dancairo to join them on a mountain expedition. Don Jose hurries in, free at last from the guardhouse where he has been disciplined for letting Carmen escape. She dances for him, but when retreat sounds and Jose prepares to return to camp she is furious. He clings feebly to his military loyalties but protests his passion, showing her the flower she once threw him, which he has kept. Carmen insists that if he loved her he would follow her to the mountains. Jose refuses to desert, but when Zuniga enters and orders him back to the barracks he disobeys. The two men are about to fight when the gypsies rush in and disarm Zuniga, forcing Don Jose to throw in his lot with them.
The smugglers and gypsies pause in a mountain pass. Despite his shame Jose still adores Carmen, but she is tiring of him. Frasquita and Mercedes read their fortunes in the cards; when Carmen deals the pack she finds only death. As the smugglers carry their stolen goods away, the terrified Micaela approaches in search of Don Jose. She hides as Escamillo arrives, looking for Carmen. He and the jealous brigaadier speedily come to blows, but their duel is stopped by Carmen herself. The toreador leaves after issuing an invitation-to the bullfights in Seville, and the others are about to resume their march when Micaela is discovered. Jose agrees to go with her when she reveals that his mother is dying, but warns Carmen they will meet again.
In a square back in Seville, the Sunday crowd gathers for the bullfight. Escamillo arrives with Carmen and, certain of her affection, goes off to the contest. Carmen bravely meets Don Jose, who is lurking nearby. Though wretched and dishonored, he pleads with her to return to him, but her heart is elsewhere. When Escamillo's triumph echoes from the arena, Carmen rushes toward the entrance with a cry of delight. Maddened, Don Jose plunges his knife into her breast.
Rhea Olivacce from the island of Dominica is making her debut in this role. As an Apprentice Artist she was awarded the Ann O’Donnell Scholarship Award for Outstanding Apprentice. Ms. Olivaccé covered Musetta in La Bohème during her apprenticeship with Des Moines Metro Opera. She participated in outreach scene concerts, as Mimi in La Bohème with Mercury Opera in Rochester, New York. She collaborated with the Raisin River Ragtime Revue featuring excerpts from the ragtime opera, Treemonisha. At New York City's Carnegie Hall, where she made her recital debut, Ms Olivaccé also performed at the New York Pops Gala under the baton of Steven Reineke, sponsored by the Netherlands American Trust, and performed “Music of the Americas” with Kevin Miller. She made her international debut in recital at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, Netherlands
Matthew Vickers. This American tenor is making his debut in this role with Opera Western Reserve. He has been praised for his “brilliant and golden voice” (Die Kleine Zeitung), his “burnished sound and confident acting” (National Post), and hailed “a gutsy performer whose glowing tenor voice has interestingly dark, baritonal undertones (Opera Now). In the upcoming season, Mr. Vickers will be covering the role of Canio in Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci with Virginia Opera and returning to Sarasota Opera to perform the role of Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly. This past season, Mr. Vickers made his Sarasota Opera debut as Arrigo in Verdi’s La Battaglia di Legnano, stepping in for an ailing colleague, took part in the east coast premiere of Faccio’s Amleto with Opera Delaware as Laertes, and performed the title role in Mascagni’s L’amico Fritz with Boston Midsummer Opera.
Luke Scott appeared as Leporello in OWR's production of Don Giovanni. Described by the New York Times as "the robust-voiced baritone" Luke Scott has performed leading baritone and bass-baritone roles with Orchestras and Opera companies in Canada and the US. A graduate of The Hartt School of Music and Bel Canto Scholarship Foundation grant winner his opera credits include Figaro in Le Nozze di Figaro at Opera on the Avalon, Malatesta in Don Pasquale with Salt Marsh Opera, Peter in Hansel und Gretel at Opera Theater of CT, Taddeo in L’Italiana in Algeri at Taconic Opera, the title roles in Gianni Schicchi and Don Giovanni at Connecticut Lyric Opera, Count Almaviva in Le Nozze di Figaro with Martina Arroyo foundation, and Argante in Rinaldo with Boston Opera Collaborative.
Kisma Jordan is also making her debut in this role. Recognized by The New York Times for her “shimmering soprano voice” and soul-stirring communicative ability, Kisma has proven to be a vocal powerhouse of great versatility. The Detroit, Michigan native is a recipient of the 2014 Kresge Artist Fellowship. In the 2014-2015 season Kisma returned to the opera stage to cover the role of Clara with Lyric Opera of Chicago in Francesca Zambello’s production of the Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess. She appeared with the Hilton Head Symphony as the soprano soloist for Mendelssohn & Verdi: Nightmares and Dreams. She then made her sixth solo appearance with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, and concluded the summer with an appearance at Detroit's Chene Park Amphitheater with electronic music legend Derrick May.
Alexa Lokensgard is making her OWR debut in this role. She has sung Lauretta in Puccini's Gianni Schicchi, Alma in Lee Hoiby's Summer and Smoke, Venus in Cavalli's Egisto and the title character, Treemonisha in Scott Joplin's ragtime opera. Last season at Michigan Opera Theatre, Alexa sang the roles of Anna in Verdi's Nabucco and Mrs. Segstrom in A Little Night Music. She returns to MOT this year to sing Papagena in The Magic Flute and the Page in Rigoletto. Alexa holds degrees in vocal performance from St. Olaf College (B.M.) and New England Conservatory (M.M.).
Shafica Kaleel made her OWR debut as a Young Artist in the role of Anina in La Traviata. She recently received a Master of Music degree in Vocal Performance at Colorado State University. She graduated magna cum laude from Youngstown State University in 2010 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and a minor in music. Notable opera roles include: Little Buttercup - HMS Pinafore, Idamante - Idomeneo, La Ciesca - Gianni Schicchi, Patience - Patience, Barbarina - Le nozze di Figaro, Valencienne - The Merry Widow and Yum-Yum - The Mikado. In June of 2013, Ms. Kaleel traveled to Orvieto, Italy and made her European debut with Opera Orvieto. Ms. Kaleel was actively involved in Opera Western Reserve’s Young Artist Program from 2009 until 2012.
Michael Pegher is a native of Pittsburgh. Mr. Pegher was first engaged at the Staatstheater Oldenburg in 2009 as Frederick in Pirates of Penzance, and was a member of the ensemble from the 2010/11 season until 2014. Notable roles in Oldenburg include Harlekin in Kaiser von Atlantis, Die Hexe in Hänsel und Gretel, Monostatos in Die Zauberflöte, Jean in Fräulein Julie, Kudrjáš in Kátja Kabanová, Hilarion in the world premier of Die Versuchungen des heiligen Antonius, Jonathan in a staged version of Händel’s Saul, Count Almaviva in Il Barbiere di Siviglia, and Albert in Albert Herring Prior to his time in Oldenburg, Michael performed such roles as Tamino in Die Zauberflöte, Ferrando in Cosi fan Tutte, Johnny Inkslinger in Britten’s Paul Bunyan, the Snowman in Rorem’s A Childhood Miracle, Le Mari in Poulenc’s Les Mamelles de Tiresias, Arithetique in Ravel’s L’Enfant et les Sortileges.
Giustino Carrano is a musician with tenacity and passion and has been making music for over 17 years. As an avid performer, vocal coach, and conductor he has enjoyed a musical career on multiple continents. His recent engagements include La Boheme with Projekt Opera, Concert engagements with Indianapolis Opera, a European tour with the Blue Lake International Choir and Orchestra, Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp staff, A Little Night Music with the Chickasaw Civic Theatre, Rigoletto with the Pensacola Opera, Gianni Schicchi, The Old Maid and the Thief, and Werther with BSU Opera Theatre. Mr. Carrano received his Master’s in performance under the tutelage of Dr. Kathleen Maurer. This Season he will be joining the Cast of Opera Florentine for the World Premiere of Sister Carrie, and making his debut at Opera Western Reserve in the role of El Dancairo in Carmen.
Jason Budd recently made his South American debut as the title character in Verdi’s Falstaff with Theatro São Pedro in São Paulo, Brazil. His performances have garnered praise all over the globe, particularly in his specialty, the buffo roles. Other recent engagements include the title role in Britten’s Noyes Fludde with Fremont Opera, Falstaff in The Merry Wives of Windsor, Kecal in The Bartered Bride both with Boston Midsummer Opera, Colline in La Boheme, Doctor Dulcamara in The Elixir of Love, and Bartolo in Il Barbiere di Siviglia with Opera Western Reserve where he shared the stage with his college friend Lawrence Brownlee, and performances in Detroit, Toledo, Maine, Cleveland and California. This summer he returned to Boston Midsum¬mer Opera for their production of Flotow’s Martha and was just seen as Scarpia in Valley Lyric Opera’s production of Tosca, with whom he has directed several productions including La Bohème, La Traviata and Rigoletto. Most recently, Jason performed the role of Don Pistachio in Donizetti's Il Campanello and Rabbi David in Mascagni's L'amico Fritz.
Brian Keith Johnson has appeared with OWR as Tonio in Pagliacci, Count Almaviva in The Marriage of Figaro, Sharpless in Madama Butterfly, and Figaro in The Barber of Seville. And other roles in opera as diverse as Figaro in Cleveland Opera On Tour’s The Barber of Seville to Ford in The New Opera Festival di Roma’s Falstaff. He has also performed a variety of Musical Theatre roles ranging from Jim in Big River to Father in Children of Eden. Other roles include Henry Box Brown and Frederick Douglass in Opera Columbus’ World Premier of Leslie Burrs’ Vanqui, the Kaiser in Cleveland Public Theatre’s production of Viktor Ullmann’s Der Kaiser Von Atlantis, Schicchi in Gianni Schicchi, Escamillo in Carmen and Almaviva in The Marriage of Figaro with The Tuesday Musical Club, The Pirate King and The Major General in The Pirates of Penzance with Cleveland Opera On Tour, Bellomy in The Fantasticks, Dewain in I Was Looking At The Ceiling and Then I Saw The Sky, and Belcore in The Elixir of Love with Lyric Opera Cleveland, Figaro in The Barber of Seville with The Duke University Symphony and Escamillo in Carmen with The Warren Philharmonic.
Scott Skiba is the Artistic Director of Cleveland Opera Theater, where he has directed critically acclaimed productions of Tosca, La Rondine, Gianni Schicchi, Suor Angelica, La Boheme, Il Tabarro, Pagliacci, Amahl and the Night Visitors, The Pirates of Penzance, H.M.S. Pinafore, Il Segreto di Susanna, and the Cleveland premiere of the new vampire opera Clarimonde. Mr. Skiba has led more than 50 new operatic productions and continues to garner attention and praise for his innovative stage direction and clear storytelling. In addition to his work with Cleveland Opera Theatre, Scott also serves as the Executive Director of the Oberlin in Italy opera program in Arezzo, Italy. He was also recently appointed as the new Director of Opera Studies at the Baldwin Wallace Conservatory of Music.
Jon Simsic made his debut with Opera Western Reserve by providing the first-act children's' chorus and playing the role of the Sacristan in "Tosca." He is Artistic Director of the Salem Youth Chorus and Organist/Choir Master at St. Joseph’s Church in Canton. Jon was the Artistic Director of Youth Music and Theater for the Salem Community Theater from 2005-2010. Jon’s conducting credits at YSU include productions of The Tender Land and The Mikado. Jon also served as a conductor for Valley Lyric Opera where he conducted performances of La Boheme, Il Trovatore, Cavalleria Rusticana, Rigoletto, and Faust. From 1991-2000, Jon was the Assistant Conductor and Chorus Master of the Youngstown Symphony. Jon is also a composer and his setting of the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis for treble voices and organ will soon be released by Paraclete Press. Jon’s anthem Harvest Hymn for chorus and organ was the 2008 grand prize winner for the Royal School of Church Music (RSCM) Choral Competition. Harvest Hymn was premiered at Salisbury Cathedral in England.