Augusta Opera's version of 'Carmen' focuses on acting for realism's sake

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In the Augusta Opera production of La Tragedie de Carmen , the song remains the same, but little else does.

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Carmen (Janara Kellerman, in the background), watches Don Jose (Robert Zimmerman) and Micaela (Kristin Sampson) rehearse the Augusta Opera's La Tragedie de Carmen.  Michael Snyder/Staff
Michael Snyder/Staff
Carmen (Janara Kellerman, in the background), watches Don Jose (Robert Zimmerman) and Micaela (Kristin Sampson) rehearse the Augusta Opera's La Tragedie de Carmen.

The production was first staged by Peter Brook in 1983. Part theater piece, part opera and adaptation of the source material novel, this Carmen is shorter, sharper and, according to director Dean Anthony, truer.

"This is a streamlined version and a much more real version than people get with the traditional Bizet," he said of the 80-minute version of the story. "It is much closer to the book and much more about the blood and guts of the thing."

Augusta Opera artistic director Mark Flint said that this production in many ways represents the direction opera companies need to go. He said that although there is still an audience for a four-act Carmen, this production attracts an audience that might be intimidated by a four-hour production.

"I think we are at the point where we have to do that," he said. "We have to do it to cultivate those new audiences. I think that's where the business is headed and it's certainly my mission here, to take new approaches."

Mr. Anthony said fans of the traditional Carmen won't be disappointed by La Tragdie de Carmen , although they may be surprised.

"They will hear all those tunes," he said. They aren't in the same order, but they are there."

He said the hybrid nature of this production and his own striving for a more realistic version of the story has meant training singers to abandon the stand-up-and-belt ethos of opera and make acting a priority.

"That's hard, because a lot of them have done the other Carmen ," he said. "So for me, it really does become about finding the realism. It is about having those singers become actors. It's about opening the door to the honesty of these characters."

Reach Steven Uhles at (706) 823-3626 or steven.uhles@augustachronicle.com.

ON STAGE


WHAT: La Tragedie de Carmen, presented by the Augusta Opera

WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday

WHERE: The Imperial Theatre, 745 Broad St.

COST: $$22-$49; (706) 826-4710, www.augustaopera.com

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