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Kirstin Chávez Steps in for Denyce Graves in Opera Carolina’s Carmen at the Belk Theater March 13-20

February 22, 2010

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    February 22, 2010
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    Opera Carolina News

Kirstin Chávez Steps in for Denyce Graves in Opera Carolina’s Carmen at the Belk Theater March 13-20

Charlotte, N.C., (Feb. 22, 2010) – Opera star Denyce Graves has withdrawn from Opera Carolina’s production of Carmen for medical reasons.

Mezzo-soprano Kirstin Chávez, who has received international recognition for her performances as Carmen, will replace Graves. Critics note that Chávez is well on her way to becoming one of the most definitive Carmens of all time. Chávez will appear with world-famous “truck-driving” tenor Carl Tanner as Don Josè in the upcoming new production of Bizet’s masterpiece Carmen.

“We regret that Denyce will not be part of this inspired version of Carmen, and Opera Carolina wishes her a speedy recovery,” said James Meena, General Director and Principal Conductor of Opera Carolina. “We are certain, however, that audiences will be mesmerized by the creativity of our new production, and leave thrilled by the talent of Kirstin Chávez and Carl Tanner.”

Graves said that she deeply regrets having to cancel her upcoming performances. “I had prepared to perform as Carmen with Opera Carolina and I was looking forward to coming back to the company after the tremendous experience we all celebrated in the acclaimed presentation of Margaret Garner. I am, however, managing a temporary health challenge that prevents me at the moment from working. I look forward to resuming my performance schedule in eight weeks."

Opera Carolina presents four performances of Carmen at the Belk Theater, North Carolina Blumenthal Performing Arts Center: Sat., March 13, 8 p.m.; Sun., March 14, 2 p.m.; Thurs., March 18, 7:30 p.m. and Sat., March 20, 8 p.m. For tickets, call 704.372.1000 or purchase online at www.carolinatix.org. Single ticket prices begin at $16.

In keeping with its reputation of bringing opera to the region in creative and innovative ways, Opera Carolina’s highly stylized production of Carmen, conceived by renowned director Bernard Uzan and built at the Opera Carolina Scenic Studio, will be set in a bullring, flanked by chorus members situated in viewing stands. A company of 10 professional dancers from New York City, under the choreography of acclaimed Broadway choreographer Peggy Hickey, will complement this distinctive production. “This is opera at its finest – fabulous music, dramatic theater, and sensational dance,” said Meena.

Carmen also includes two opportunities for a non-traditional experience. For the adventurous seeking a once-in-a lifetime experience, Opera Carolina will offer a limited number of premiere on-stage seats for purchase. Premiere ticket holders will sit in the stands of the bullring during Acts I and II, for an up-close-and-personal view of the drama that unfolds between the seductive gypsy Carmen and Don Josè. For Acts III and IV, they will return to the audience for the heartrending ending.

This special opportunity includes complimentary champagne and refreshments at intermission and a back-stage tour prior to the performance. To reserve premiere seating, call Brandon Stanley at 704.332.7177, ext. 209 or contact him at Brandon@operacarolina.org.

Also on opening night, Saturday, March 13, Opera Carolina will host an “Interactive Opening Night” beginning at 7:45 p.m. Passersby will be able to watch streaming video of Carmen, which will be projected on an oversized cloud situated at the corner of 5th and Tryon streets in uptown Charlotte. The popular “Bloggers Circle” introduced at La Bohème opening night, will be held again in the upper level lobby (Mezzanine level) of the Belk Theater. Online writers and Opera Carolina’s Bravo! Group (Young Professionals of the Opera) will congregate during intermission to share updates and critical reviews with their respective audiences via social media.

About Carmen Carmen is based on Prosper Merimee’s novel of the same name, and follows Carmen, a free-spirited gypsy who takes pleasure in using and discarding men. Set in Seville, Spain in 1830, Carmen integrates love, deceit and jealousy into a passionate crescendo.

When Carmen was first performed in Paris in 1875 the critics denounced its scandalous nature. The blend of action and tragedy are balanced by the melody and humanity present in Bizet’s moving work. Carmen’s strength is the intense romance between Carmen and first Spanish officer Don Josè, who is tempted by Carmen to join her band of smugglers, then bullfighter Escamillo. The tempestuous nature of their interactions is brought to dramatic finale by the murder of Carmen in a jealous rage by Don Josè.

Carmen is an opera wrought with passion but its strength is that the emotions appeal to everyone,” says Meena. “Bizet’s beautiful melodies are timeless and captivating.”

About the Stars
Opera Carolina’s cutting edge production of Bizet’s Carmen stars Kirstin Chávez, known for capturing the gypsy spirit of the challenging title role. Carmen is Chávez’s signature role and is exemplified by her luscious tone and passionate stage presence. In her debut as Carmen, critics called her "stunning — a rich, powerful voice, full of Bohemian fire and earthy sex appeal, a velvety mezzo in the same black and scarlet tones as her costumes." NewJerseyNewsroom.com said “Kirstin Chávez is easily one of the most riveting and significant young artists performing today.” She has captivated audiences at the New York City Opera, Tokyo City Opera, Minnesota Opera, as well as in Beijing, China and Sydney, Australia with her performance as Carmen. She has also appeared as Rosina in il Barbiere di Siviglia, Dorabella in Cosi fan Tutte, Cenerentola in Cenerentola, Desideria in The Saint of Bleecker Street and Maddalena in Rigoletto.

Carl Tanner has performed the sensational role of Don Josè 167 times. Tanner has performed all over North America, Asia and Europe, most recently as Caláf in Hamburg. Last fall he performed Canio for a new Pagliacci with the New York City Opera. Other recent appearances were at the Bregenz Festival in Il Trovatore (recorded as a DVD), a gala concert performance of Pagliacci at La Monnaie, Brussels; debuting at the Teatro Real, Madrid, as Pinkerton; Cavaradossi in performances of Tosca with the Minnesota Orchestra and Radames in Aida for Opera Pacific. His long-awaited Holiday CD "Hear the Angel Voices” made the top 25 on the Classical charts three consecutive years.

Other cast members include: Anne-Carolyn Bird as Micaela, Kristopher Irmiter as Escamillo, Diane McEwen-Martin as Frasquita, Dan Boye as Zuniga and Carla Dirlikov as Mercedes.

Carmen will be performed in the original French language with English supertitles projected on a screen above the stage.

Note to editors: For photography and complete cast biographies, please visit www.operacarolina.org/press.

The final production of Opera Carolina’s 2009/2010 Season is Otello (based on Shakespeare’s drama Othello), which brings its drama to the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center with performances on May 6 and 8, starring the great American tenor Carl Tanner.

About Opera Carolina
Founded in 1948 as the Charlotte Opera Association by a small group of volunteers, today Opera Carolina is the largest professional opera company in the Carolinas with an operating budget of over $3.5 million for the fiscal year 2009. The mission of Opera Carolina is to inspire the region’s diverse community through the presentation of excellent Opera, Operetta, Music Theater and Education & Outreach programs that elevate the quality of life in the Carolinas. Opera Carolina is a community resource with a commitment to artistic excellence and community service.

Opera Carolina is supported by the Arts & Science Council-Charlotte/Mecklenburg and the North Carolina Arts Council, an agency funded by the state of North Carolina, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Opera Carolina is a member of OPERA America.