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Opera NH celebrates 50 years with Carmen. Photo courtesy of Jenny Kelly Productions.




 See Carmen

Where: Palace Theatre, 80 Hanover St., Manchester
When: Saturday, Feb. 1, at 7 p.m.
Admission: Tickets start at $27.50. Opera NH is offering discounts for students and, in addition, one hour before showtime, student rush tickets will be sold for just $10. The seating is limited. 
Contact: palacetheatre.org, 668-5588




Seduced by Carmen
Opera NH celebrates 50 years with crowd favorite

01/23/14
By Kelly Sennott ksennott@hippopress.com



 Even people who don’t know opera know Carmen.

To celebrate its 50th season, Opera NH members chose to open the year with a show that people know, people like and, more importantly, people will pay to see. 
“We keep track of the history of our ticket sales, and Carmen, for some reason, seems to be a very popular show,” said Faith Wilson, executive director of Opera NH, in a phone interview last week. The nonprofit again invites Teatro Lirico D’Europa to perform, accompanied by English surtitles, within Manchester’s historic Palace Theatre on Saturday, Feb. 1, at 7 p.m. 
Of course, Carmen Artistic Director/Stage Director Giorgio Lalov says it’s no mystery why the opera has survived nearly 150 years since French composer Georges Bizet wrote the four acts back in 1875.
“It’s very human,” Lalov said. “These operas were put together hundreds of years ago, but they’re still very relevant today. Carmen is about love, passion, murder. ... It’s all about relationships between human beings.”
The opera, based on the novella of the same name by  Prosper Mérimée, is about the downfall of a man named Don José, a soldier who is seduced by a sultry gypsy, Carmen, despite being engaged to his childhood sweetheart, Micaela. He becomes obsessed and gives up everything — his military duties, his career, his fiance — for the love of the gypsy. Carmen, however, has her sights on the toreador Escamillo. She taunts Don José to the point of madness.
Teatro Lirico D’Europa performed in Manchester twice last year. The company was created in 1988 by the late Yves Josse and Lalov. Since its first U.S. tour in 2000 it has visited New Hampshire many times, and thus, has performed Carmen many times here. Despite this, Lalov says he still becomes extremely emotional when Carmen takes stage. 
“It’s just unbelievable that these things were made hundreds of years ago but aren’t anymore,” Lalov said. “Now, I have nothing against pop music, but I think that classical music is so much more human and it touches the heart.”
This season, in particular, has been filled with great effort, both by Opera NH board members and by Lalov to not only keep Opera NH alive but to make it thrive through partnerships and outreach. Last year, for instance, the nonprofit collaborated with the New Hampshire Institute of Art and commissioned artwork by a local student for its program cover, a new tradition that continued this year. Opera NH also partnered with Just Love to Sing! and held its first free outdoor performance in Stark Park last August, where singers performed Hansel & Gretel with success. Most recently, the nonprofit collaborated again with NHIA and participated in an “Art and Soul” auction in the fall.
Members and collaborators aren’t slowing down anytime soon; over the phone, Lalov, who has helped build opera companies across the country, passionately talked about his plans to help Opera NH produce a show with local singers and musicians for the 2014-2015 season. The details are still very much in the works, Wilson said, but the 50-year anniversary of Opera NH, if anything, has boosted members’ confidence, despite the New England companies that recently folded. (She noted Opera Boston, which closed its doors in early 2012 due to a budget deficit.)
Still, selling tickets is extremely important — between the intricate, old-fashioned costumes and the magnificent sets shows like Carmen require, it’s incredibly expensive and requires an enormous amount of work in order to put together an operatic production. Performing opera is difficult, too, and requires rigorous practice and training from performers. 
“We’ve made it 50 years, which gives us incentive to stick around and celebrate not only our 50th year, but to make sure we celebrate a 75th. We’d like to to make people more aware of opera and produce more than just the two major shows we do now,” Wilson said. 
“It’s an opportunity for people who love the opera to see it in New Hampshire and not have to travel far,” Wilson said. 
She was particularly excited to communicate that already, 60 students would be seeing the show, double the number from last year. 
“I think there’s a [stigma] that opera is for old people, that it’s boring, and by offering comparably inexpensive tickets, it’s an opportunity for people to try it out.”
 
As seen in the January 23, 2014 issue of the Hippo. 





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