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'Carmen' heats up stage

Rebecca Krouner, center, stars as the seductive gypsy in Cinnabar Theater's production of the opera “Carmen.”

Eric Chazankin
Published: Thursday, June 6, 2013 at 9:11 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, June 6, 2013 at 9:11 a.m.

Lust, passion and jealousy are heating up the stage this month with Cinnabar Theater's production of the classic opera “Carmen,” performed in English.

Facts

CARMEN

What: Cinnabar Theater presents Georges Bizet's opera “Carmen” in English.
When: Through June 16. Show times are at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 7:30 p.m. June 12; and 2 p.m. Sundays.
Where: Cinnabar Theater, 3333 Petaluma Blvd. North.
Tickets: $35 general; $32 seniors 65 and over; $25 ages 22 and under.
Information: www.cin nabartheater.org or call 763-8920.

The opera in four acts was written by French composer Georges Bizet in the late 1800s, and is based on a novel of the same title by Prosper Mérimée. It was first performed in Paris in 1875.

“Carmen,” which is set in Seville, Spain, tells the story of a naive soldier from Navarre who learns that “love is a rebellious bird.” His desire and lust lead him away from his virginal childhood sweetheart and into the arms of the flirtatious, seductive gypsy, Carmen.

This is the first time in Cinnabar's 40-year history that it has presented the French opera, but the time seemed right thanks to the theater's artististic director Elly Lichenstein's discovery of Bay Area mezzo-soprano Rebecca Krouner.

“When she sang, we knew we had the perfect person and voice for the role of Carmen,” she said. “We knew we had to do it.”

The selection of Krouner as Carmen is perfect. She demands attention from the audience from the moment she saunters on stage in a red dress, her movement like a she-wolf prowling for her prey with a devilish grin. Krouner plays the part well, and has the voice to go with it. Her performance of “Habanera” is fiery and sultry.

Carmen's prey in the opera is the soldier Don José, who is at first not interested in Carmen's advances because of his affections for childhood sweetheart Micaëla. Carmen, who is up for a challenging game of seduction, manages to ignite desire in José. That awakened desire, however, quickly explodes into a jealous, passionate, deadly game when Carmen sets her eyes on another man, Escamillo, a toreador (bull fighter) from Granada.

The role of Don José is played by Mark Andrew Kratz, who has a lovely tenor voice that blends seamlessly with Krouner. As an audience member, you are very much pulled into Don José's tragic, sad descent from responsible soldier to shameful criminal.

Bizet creates an interesting contrast in his opera between the characters of Carmen and Micaëla. Carmen is the wild, rebellious and free seductress, while Micaëla is the innocent, sweet and loyal childhood love. The role of Micaëla is played by soprano Kelly Britt, whose angelic voice is a great contrast to the more sultry sounding Krouner. Britt's performance of Micaëla's aria in act three is lovely and impressive.

Cinnabar's cast of “Carmen” includes 45 performers, which Lichenstein noted is about half the size of the audience. In addition, a handful of members from Cinnabar's Young Rep Theater star as the “Children of Seville,” chorus.

The music of “Carmen” is very memorable, and even if you haven't seen the opera before, you will probably recognize a great deal of the score, such as the orchestra's “Prelude,” “Habanera” and the “Toreador song.” Those musical pieces in particular have been used in numerous films, commercials, jingles and even cartoons.

With Mary Chun as conductor, the orchestra presents the music so flawlessly that you truly forget you're listening to live music. That says a lot about the caliber of musicians willing to lend their talents to Cinnabar Theater.

Cinnabar's production of “Carmen” is sultry, passionate, fun and very well done thanks to its cast of talented singers and musicians.

Cinnabar is presenting it in English, so don't let the word “opera” keep you from experiencing this world-famous piece on a local stage.

Performances of “Carmen” continue through June 16, with show times at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 2 p.m. Sundays. The show is quickly selling out, and an additional performance at 7:30 p.m. June 12 has been added.

For tickets and information, go online to www.cinnabartheater.org or call at 763-8920.

(Contact Yovanna Bieberich at yovanna.bieberich@arguscourier.com)

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