Tag Archives: Rinat Shaham

Some ‘Habaneras’ celebrating Bizet’s birthday

Georges Bizet

by Gale Martin / @operatoonity

Today in Paris, France, composer Georges Bizet was born in 1838. Though he had no great body of operas to contribute to the repertoire, not like Verdi, he certainly has a created an operatic legacy enjoyed today because of Carmen, his best known work.

It was composed not long before he died. Sadly, he didn’t live long enough to witness the success of it.

Bachtrack.com lists 47 performances of Carmen on its site featuring live classical performances worldwide including Deutsche Oper, the San Francisco Opera Company, Latvian National Opera, and Zurich Opera.

Another of his operas performed occasionally is Les Pêcheurs de Perles  or The Pearl Fishers.

In celebration of Bizet and the music of his best known operas, here’s a few “Habaneras” for you.

Here’s Israeli mezzo-soprano Rinat Shaham in a 2005 performance of Carmen, whom I recently heard in the role for Opera Company of Philadelphia, reviewed here:

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Now for a “Habanera” completely different in style and staging, here’s Spanish mezzo-soprano Teresa Berganza’s “Habanera:”

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And in concert is Latvian mezzo-soprano Elīna Garanča:

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Do you have a favorite performance of Carmen or the Habanera?

 

 

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supporting characters are opera’s unsung heroes

I recently saw a wonderful production of Carmen by Opera Company of Philadelphia, their 2011-12 season opener.

When one goes to see Carmen, one expects the character Carmen to be the vocal and emotional centerpiece of the show. Philly’s Carmen, portrayed by internationally acclaimed mezzo-soprano Rinat Shaham, was Carmen–vocally, physically, emotionally. Expectations exceeded.

We all agree that a heavy burden to “deliver” is placed on any singer playing a title role in opera.

Rinat Shaham as Carmen flanked by Tammy Coil (left) as Mercédès and Greta Ball (right) as Frasquita / OCP 2011 / Kelly & Massa Photography

After enjoying the first half of Act I, knowing I could completely trust Shaham in the title role, I settled into the “rest” of the characters–the supporting players– specifically, all of Carmen’s gypsy friends.

It is important for Carmen to have “friends” since she can be perceived as more rogue than *Sarah Palin* if that’s possible.  She dances with Mercédès and Frasquita, she reads cards with them (sort of). These characters help the audience to realize Carmen can play in the sandbox, too, if not always nicely, and provide comic relief, especially Frasquita.

Vocally, however, it’s critically important to have Mercédès and Frasquita, who lend richness to the texture of the show. The gypsy quintet with smugglers Le Dancaïro and Le Remendado are showpieces that demand talented supporting players. By the end of the show, I have fallen harder for Carmen’s gypsy band than I have for the fiery gypsy, if portrayed well–and they were.

Last spring, during the Met’s Ariadne auf Naxos, the nymphs made the show for me. The direction, staging, and costuming mined the full potential of these supporting players. Of course there were other wonderful performances in that production, but I’ll never forget the nymphs as portrayed.

Anne-Carolyn Bird, Tamara Mumford and Erin Morley as the nymphs in the Met's 'Ariadne auf Naxos'

Could you have a Rigoletto without a stunning Sparafucile? Or Un ballo in maschera without the notorious Ulrica, the fortune teller. (Yes, Verdi definitely mined the dramatic and vocal potential of the supporting player).

Who are some of your favorite supporting players in opera?



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Opera Co. of Phila. launches ‘Carmen’ under the stars

historic Independence Hall, the southern bookend of Independence Mall in Center City Philadelphia

The Opera Company of Philadelphia cordially invites the City of Philadelphia to grab their picnic baskets and blankets, and join them for Opening Night Philadelphia!, a free, public simulcast of Bizet’s Carmen on September 30, 2011, at 8:00 p.m. on historic Independence Mall.

This marks the first big screen live simulcast  at one of Philadelphia’s most iconic public spaces and has been made possible by an $150,000 inaugural gift from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation’s Knight Arts Challenge to support art ideas that enrich and engage Philadelphia.

“We are proud to bring this classic production of Carmen to life in a  larger-than-life way,” shared General Director David B. Devan. “We have affirmed . . . the important role that art and music play in making our city vibrant. Our hope is to have just as many first-time opera-goers in our audience for this special evening on Independence Mall as we have loyal opera fans – that’s the fun of it.”

Carmen tells the story of a beguiling gypsy who sets her sights on a naïve but passionate young corporal, tracing a tale of seduction, obsession, and deadly betrayal. Bizet’s masterpiece features many of opera’s most powerful melodies, from the bewitching “Habañera,” to the passionate “Seguidilla,” and the bravura of the “Toreador” song, capturing the imagination from the first notes of its renowned overture.

Mezzo Rinat Shaham sings Carmen at OCP this fall

“We chose Carmen specifically as a vehicle for Rinat Shaham, one of the most acclaimed Carmens of our time,” shared Artistic Director Robert B. Driver. Rinat began her career at the Curtis Institute of Music, and sang career-forging roles with OCP early on, including Zerlina in Don Giovanni, Cherubino in The Marriage of Figaro, and Werther’s Charlotte.

Shaham has performed the title role of Bizet’s opera in New York, Berlin, Stuttgart, Japan, Montreal, Miami and Tel Aviv, among others. Her Glyndebourne Festival debut in Carmen led the The Independent to praise her as “… a sensation. From the moment she slinks downstage…. this [Carmen] uses the music like promises and threats, coaxing, cajoling, insinuating, bending the melody.”

As Don José, Canadian tenor David Pomeroy makes his OCP debut on the heels of recent performances at the Metropolitan Opera in the title roles Romeo and Juliet and The Tales of Hoffmann. He starred as Alfredo in Vancouver Opera’s La traviata earlier this year, and sang Pinkerton in recent Canadian Opera Company performances of Madama Butterfly.

Rising star baritone Jonathan Beyer, a Curtis Institute of Music alumnus who has sung a number of major roles with Pittsburgh Opera and recently performed in the World Premiere of Moby Dick at Dallas Opera, makes his Company debut as Escamillo.

Academy of Vocal Arts alumna Ailyn Pérez, who sang the title role of Romeo and Juliet with the Opera Company, returns as Micaëla following performances of Marguerite in Faust with Santa Fe and San Diego Operas.

OCP’s Carmen will be performed in French with English translations and runs for five performances on September 30, October 2m, 5, 9m & 14, 2011.

Information and details on the September 30th Opening Night Philadelphia! event, including registration for free tickets, can be found at www.operaphila.org/CARMEN.



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