Pacific Lyric opens its opera season with Bizet’s “Carmen” in two venues
The Pacific Lyric Association, which has presented accessible opera productions for all ages in Escondido since 2013, opens its 2022 season this weekend with something familiar and something new.
The company led by Executive Director Justin Gray and Artistic Director-Conductor Alexandra Keegan is bringing back an old favorite to open the season, Georges Bizet’s “Carmen,” and expanding its shows to a second venue.
Following Sunday’s performance of the popular lyrical tragedy, Pacific Lyric will move the production to the Joan B. Kroc Theater in San Diego for a second weekend of performances. Gray said PLA’s management and board felt it was time for the company to expand its audience base beyond Inland North County.
“It’s exciting to bring an iconic opera like ‘Carmen’ to a whole new audience,” said Gray.
Inspired by the 1847 short story by Prosper Mérimée, “Carmen” is a love triangle story between the Spanish gypsy Carmen, her jealous soldier-lover Don José and Escamillo, the bullfighter she loves. The fourth character in the opera is Micaela, whose love for Don José is unrequited.
This production will be directed by Gabriel Reoyo Pazos with PLA’s unique ‘freeze frame’ staging format, which was developed to make opera more accessible to a wide audience.
Although “Carmen” is sung in its original French, the recitative portions will be cut and replaced with a spoken narrative delivered in English by a professional actor. The narrator will provide context and describe what happens in the story between the famous arias, duets and ensembles. Company officials have found through previous audience surveys that this format makes opera much easier for children to understand and enjoy.
“Continuing with our signature format, a narrator will help explain to our audience, many of whom are newcomers and young people, what is happening on stage,” Gray said. “We do that instead of supertitles, which we find distracting. For this production, our narrator will be the director, who will play the role of Don Jose in his later years as he looks back on his time with Carmen.
The production will feature 25 singers, 27 musicians and a flamenco dancer. All lead roles were doubled as opera singers need a vocal rest day between performances. Carmen will be played by Anna Pflieger and Emily Weinberg; Don José by Alexis Alfaro and Gerardo Gaytan; Escamillo by Joshua Wentz and Carlos Oliva; and Micaela of Chelsea Seener and Caroline Nelms.
In addition to producing operas and concerts, Pacific Lyric also runs orchestral internships and opera instruction programs that provide real-world experience. The stage manager and assistant conductor of “Carmen” are both company interns, and there are also interns in the production’s chorus and orchestra.
Twenty percent of all proceeds from “Carmen” ticket sales will go to a support program for Ukrainian mothers currently living with their children as refugees in Poland. PLA leader Keegan and board member Anna Belaya are from Ukraine and have family members who now live in active war zones. Some of these mothers – many of whom are young single mothers with no Polish language skills, no cars or jobs – are featured on the APL website at pacificlyricassociation.org/ukrainianrelief.html.
Pacific Lyric Association presents ‘Carmen’
When: 7 p.m. tonight and Saturday. 3 p.m. Sunday
Where: Center Theater, California Center for the Arts, Escondido, 340 N. Escondido Blvd., Escondido
When: 7 p.m. Oct. 21 and 22 3 p.m. Oct. 23
Where: Joan B. Kroc Theater, 6611 University Ave, San Diego
Tickets: $60 and up
On line: pacificlyricassociation.org