Here’s something for opera lovers to ponder, particularly fans of Georg Bizet’s 19th century masterpiece, Carmen…
What if the passionate, fiery gypsy Carmen gave up her gig at the cigarette factory in Seville, Spain, enrolled in an American high school, and joined the cheerleading squad?
And what if Don Jose weren’t a military corporal but a high school nerd and Escamillo, captain of the football team rather than a bullfighter?
Audiences will have a chance to find out when OPERA POSSE presents Carmen High on Thursday, June 28 at 8 p.m. and Friday, June 29 at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. at Japan America Theater in Los Angeles, California.
“With Carmen High we’ve taken Bizet’s wonderful opera and recast it as a high school drama rife with issues that are current to the real high school experience,” explains Stephanie Vlahos, founder and artistic director of OPERA POSSE. “Peer pressure, bullying, teen pregnancy, violence and what happens to those who are marginalized – all are incorporated into the opera. But, at the same time, we remain true to Bizet’s music and concept.”
Bizet himself would most likely approve of this 21st century interpretation, Vlahos adds. “Carmen took French opera in a completely new direction and, in the beginning, was highly controversial,” says Vlahos, a former house mezzo-soprano for Los Angeles Opera who is currently theater coach and stage director for the Domingo-Thornton Young Artist’s Program at LA Opera as well as this year’s director-in-residence at the Cole Conservatory Opera Institute at Cal State Long Beach. “So I can’t help but feel that Bizet-the-groundbreaker would cheer this production on, especially since our goal is to share the joy of great opera with an audience not exactly known for regularly attending the opera – teenagers.”
Carmen High is especially unique because it was developed to appeal not only to teenage audiences but to teenage performers. The cast is comprised entirely of high school and college students with an array of talents, from hip hop dancing and skateboarding to opera singing and rapping. Even grafitti artists are ‘cast.’
Appearing are students from throughout Southern California, as the cast list shows:
Natalie Copeland (Carmen)--West Covina
Miriam Arellano (Carmen)- West Covina
Landon Shaw (Jose) Long Beach
Ali Lee (Frasquita)- Westchester
Shannon Murphy O'Hara (Frasquita)--Arleta
Kelli McKay (Mercedes)West Covina
Gabi Campo (Mercedes) Glendale
Molly Chapman (Muse/Cheerleader) Studio City
Maya Karp (Cheerleader)Silverlake
Lucy Provan (Micaela) Burbank
AOife Calderon (Micaela) Silverlake
Camilo Estrada (Escamillo) Alhambra
Daniel Moore (Remy) Pasadena
Thomas Murphy O'Hara (Remy)--Arleta
Ricky Ruelas (Danny) Covina
Joseph Ottavi-Perez (Danny)Santa Monica
Annie Reznik (Twirler) Calabasas/ Valley Glen
Gabi Campo (Mercedes) Glendale
Darci Anderson (Twirler)Encino
Desanki Ilic (Cheerleader)Glendale
Chris Lowery (Bullied boy)Manhattan Beach
Ian Gold (Emo) Altadena
“I often find myself thinking of this production as ‘Glee, the opera’ because there is no better way to introduce students to opera than in having them do it,” says Vlahos, who first mounted Carmen High as part of the Full Circle Opera Project in 2009 at the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts.
“But, with this updated version of Carmen High, students from all over Southern California are participating,” Vlahos continues. “Even a student from Florence, Italy. This fits in beautifully with our mission at OPERA POSSE – to refresh the relevance of opera through outreach, collaboration and mentoring.”
However, the eclectic flavor of Carmen High extends beyond its cast to the music, itself. While Bizet’s score has center stage in the production, Vlahos has incorporated songs from other musical genres – jazz, rap, hip-hop, musical theatre – as well.
“It’s all part of a day’s work at OPERA POSSE, thinking way outside of the box,” says Vlahos, who was hailed by AP as ‘the moonlighting diva.’ “Our dedication to promoting the classical arts in a truly fresh, exciting and unexpected new way knows no bounds.”
OPERA POSSE thanks the Pasadena Arts League, Metropolitan Associates and Alicia Garcia Clarke for their generous support of this production of Carmen High.
Tickets are $25 for general seating and $35 for premium seats and are available online at www.operaposse.com . A pre-sale incentive is available through June 15, 2012. For more information, visit the website, call 626.428.5609, or email email@example.com.
Japan America Theater is located at 244 South San Pedro Street; Los Angeles, CA 90012