A stadium-sized ‘Carmen’

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A stadium-sized ‘Carmen’

Yet another opera is about to be staged in Seoul on a massive scale.
The last two years have seen “Aida” staged at Jamsil World Cup Stadium, “Turandot” at the Seoul World Cup Stadium and “La Boheme” at Jamsil Olympic Park Stadium. Not all were financially successful, but the chance to make a huge splash continues to lure big productions.
This time “Carmen,” Georges Bizet’s famous tale of passion and jealousy, will be staged at Jamsil Olympic Park Stadium from tomorrow to May 19,
The stadium seats 37,000 people; the production includes a 100-by-20-meter screen and a 108-meter-long stage.
One attraction in this production that wasn’t in the 1875 original will be a flamenco troupe from Spain. And another spectacle was planned for the Seoul production, but has since been canceled: an actual bullfight.
Lee Ji-yeon of Benex Art & Culture, the company bringing the production to Seoul, said Korean restrictions on importing U.S. cattle, imposed after a case of mad cow disease turned up in the States, scuttled the bullfight plan.
She also said local animal activists objected to the bullfight, though she said that didn’t affect the decision.
“We were never going to have the bulls fight to the death,” Ms. Lee said. “They were going to be a dramatic addition.”
The staging of “Aida” in Korea last year included live camels from Australia.
“Carmen” is the tale of a passionate gypsy, her fiercely jealous lover Don Jose and Escamillo, a bullfighting Spanish rogue to whom she is attracted. But the cards forsee death in her future, and the story closes with one of the most dramatic endings in opera.
In the 1875 premiere at France’s National Theater, Paul Lherie starred as Don Jose with Marie-Celestine-Laurence Galli-Marie as Carmen. The production was a flop, partially because France was going through a moral revolution. Critics described the opera as immoral.
But over time, Brahms, Nietzsche, Ravel, and Tchaikovsky all hailed the merits of the opera: melody, orchestration, drama, characterization and atmosphere. This sensual tale is now staged in opera houses everywhere.
In Seoul, Don Jose will be played by Argentinian tenor Jose Cura, who specializes in verismo-style Italian opera.
Singing the role of Carmen will be Elena Zaremba, a Russian mezzo soprano.
The baritone Franck Ferrari will perform as Escamillo, and soprano Maya Dashuk will sing the role as Micaela.
Gian-Carlo del Monaco, the son of the great tenor Carlo del Monaco, will be directing; del Monaco has staged Puccini’s “Turandot” and “Il Trittico.” Lukas Karytinos, the artistic director of the Greek National Opera, will be conducting.

by Joe Yong-hee

For more information, visit the Web site at www.carmenseoul.com. Tickets are 50,000 won ($42) to 200,000 won.
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