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Dayton Opera Proudly Presents Georges Bizet’s Beloved Carmen, A Signature Event of the Dayton Performing Alliance



CONTACT: ANGELA WHITEHEAD
Communications & Media Manager 
Dayton Performing Arts Alliance 
Phone 937-224-3521 x1138 


DAYTON, OH (April 20, 2017) – On Friday, May 19, 2017 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, May 21, 2017 at 3 p.m. in the Mead Theatre of the Schuster Center, Dayton Opera, under the Artistic Direction of Thomas Bankston, will present Georges Bizet’s beloved masterpiece Carmen.  This presentation will mark the fourth and final opera of the 2016-2017 Excite Season for Dayton Opera.  This special presentation will also mark the seventh concert in the Premier Health 2016-2017 Dayton Philharmonic Masterworks Series.  As a Signature Event for Dayton Performing Arts Alliance (DPAA), this presentation will showcase all three DPAA art forms—Dayton Opera, Dayton Ballet, and Dayton Philharmonic—in an exhilarating evening of artistic collaboration in Dayton.

Innovation Sponsor for this performance is The Hampden W. and Erma R. Catterton Charitable Trust. Principal Sponsors are the Jesse and Caryl Philips Foundation,  the Harry A. Toulmin, Jr. and Virginia B. Toulmin Fund of The Dayton Foundation, and the ELM Foundation.  Leadership Sponsors are Emerson Climate Technologies, Gosiger Inc, The Bill and Jackie Lockwood Family Foundation, and Premier Health.  Performance Sponsor is Crowne Plaza, and the DPAA Innovation Sponsor for this performance is the DP&L Foundation—Powering Innovation in the Performing Arts.

Carmen is seductive, she’s elusive, she’s a danger to your heart. And best of all, she’s irresistibly tuneful.

Poor Don José. Poised to marry Micaëla, the hometown “good girl” whom his mother approves, he topples like a giant oak in a storm when the fiery gypsy sets her laser sights on the hapless corporal. Don José doesn’t give in without a struggle, and neither does pure-hearted Micaëla, who dares to search for her love in the mountainous gypsy smugglers’ lair. But who can resist Carmen’s seductive Seguidilla or her inviting, tempestuous Habanera? Certainly not Don José, and definitely not the generations of audiences who have made Georges Bizet’s masterpiece one of the most frequently performed operas ever.

Alas, what Carmen boasts in allure and vocal splendor, she lacks in attention span, and Don José soon finds his once-comfortable world quickly imploding. He risks everything for the temperamental gypsy—his military career, his former sweetheart, even a chance to see his dying mother. And for what? Fleeting passion in the midst of a smuggling ring he was supposed to police. His doom is set when in swaggers his rival, the virile baritone Escamillo, a bullfighter. Well-equipped with the glamour of the bullring and the irresistible Toreador Song, Escamillo snatches the prize from the devastated tenor, Don José. Despite fateful warnings from a reading of the cards, Carmen never veers from her self-determined path to destruction. She must remain forever free! She will pay for her freedom with her life.

Dayton Opera Artistic Director Thomas Bankston has once again assembled an incredible cast of extraordinary singing and acting talent as well artistic staff to bring Carmen to life.  Making her Dayton Opera debut in the lead role of this production is Audrey Babcock*.  Ms. Babcock is an award-winning mezzo-soprano who is quickly gaining notoriety for her commanding, powerful performances as Carmen.  She has performed the role with over twelve opera companies, each performance earning her rave reviews.  In a recent performance in the role with Nashville Opera, The Tennessean writes, “Babcock so completely captures Carmen in look, gesture and voice that one stays easily and willingly under her spell all evening.”  The Salt Lake Tribune adds, “Audrey Babcock’s performance of Carmen was a spellbinding tour de force,” of her appearance in the role with Utah Festival Opera Company.

Performing the leading role of Don José opposite Ms. Babcock, tenor Dominic Armstrong returns to Dayton Opera for his second appearance after his 2014 role of Tamino in Mozart’s The Magic Flute.  Armstrong has quickly established himself internationally as an artist of superb and distinguished musicality and characterization.  Burt Saidel of The Oakwood Register said of his first appearance with Dayton Opera, “American tenor Dominic Armstrong captured the audience from his first notes…. Dominic has vocal versatility that could mean many returns to Dayton Opera.” Dayton Opera agrees and is excited to have Armstrong back to Dayton to perform the commanding yet beguiled role of Don José.  

Returning to Dayton Opera for her fourth appearance is soprano Deborah Selig, who has previously performed as Amy in Dayton Opera’s Little Women in 2005 and Adele in Die Fledermaus in 2006, as well as the soprano soloist in the 2015 Season Opening Spectacular, American Mosaic. Ms. Selig studied at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music and has earned critical acclaim for her rich, shimmering voice and her excellent artistic instincts.  Selig will perform the role of Micaëla, the peasant girl vying with the seductive Carmen for Don José’s attention and affection. 

Bass Nathan Stark also takes the Schuster Center stage for the fourth time, having last appeared alongside Ms. Selig as the bass soloist in American Mosaic.  Prior to 2015, Stark sang the roles of Friar Laurence in Gounod’s Romeo and Juliet in 2012 and Hunding in Wagner’s Die Walkure, Act I, in the 2013 The Glory of Wagner production.  Mr. Stark holds degrees from California State University, Long Beach and the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.  He has been praised by the Washington Post as having a booming voice of “unearthly power.”

Dayton Opera is pleased to welcome to the stage the four talented artists from its 2016-2017 Artists-in-Residence Program. These four vocalists were selected from national auditions and have spent the last two months appearing in numerous schools throughout the Dayton community to present musical programs which introduce Dayton area students to the art and magic of opera. Additionally, they have performed in several appearances of the DPAA, including Handel’s Messiah this past December, in the Dayton Philharmonic Chamber Concert Sound and Song in February, and also in a special community performance called A Taste of the Arts, sponsored by the Centerville Arts Commission, at Centerville High School in March.  These emerging young opera singers include soprano Chelsea Friedlander in the role of Frasquita, mezzo-soprano Elizabeth Frey* in the role of Mercédès, tenor Brian Skoog* in the role of Remendado, and bass-baritone Vincent Grana* in the role of Zuniga.  This appearance will be Ms.Friedlander’s second appearance on the Schuster Center Stage, having recently sung the role of Blonde in Dayton Opera’s February production of Mozart’s The Abduction from the Seraglio.

Rounding out the cast will be baritone Tyler Alessi*, who made his Dayton debut this past October as a soloist in Dayton Ballet’s world premiere of Dracula: Bloodlines.  Alessi is a graduate of the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music (CCM), where he studied with a frequent Dayton Opera artist, bass Kenneth Shaw.  Mr. Alessi will be performing the role of the smuggler Dancairo in this production. Also appearing in the role of the soldier Moralès is Cincinnati baritone Alexander Harper, a graduate student from CCM.

The Dayton Opera Chorus, under the direction of Dayton Opera Chorus Master Jeffrey Powell, adds its vocal power as well as dramatic presence to the bustling scenes of Bizet’s work. Joining  those professional choristers for this production will be the young voices of the Kettering Children’s Choir, under the direction of Bruce Swank. 

Returning to Dayton Opera for the second time to stage direct this operatic masterwork is Fenlon Lamb. Ms. Lamb is currently the Director of Opera and Vocal Programming at Bar Harbor Music Festival, and is Director of Opera at the University of Missouri, Kansas City, Conservatory of Music. In 2015 she directed Dayton Opera’s production of The Pearl Fishers. Over the last several years, Ms. Lamb has held directing roles with numerous opera companies across the United States, including Opera Carolina, Austin Lyric Opera, Orlando Philharmonic, Palm Beach Opera, Seattle Opera, Mobile Opera, Toledo Opera, and Lyric Opera of Kansas City.  This season she directed the world premiere of Riders of the Purple Sage at Arizona Opera. She brings her unique perspective on this production of Carmen from her experience as a professional mezzo-soprano who performed the title role on numerous U.S. opera stages. 

The Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra, under the direction of Artistic Director and Conductor Neal Gittleman, will play a starring role as well bringing Bizet’s vivid score to life. The music of this enduring opera is extraordinarily grand and contains some of the most recognizable melodies pervasive in pop culture even today. Excerpts of Carmen, including the famous “Habanera” and “The Toreador Song,” can be found in countless television programs, commercials, blockbuster movies, nostalgic cartoons like Bugs Bunny and Tom and Jerry, and even on Jim Henson’s Sesame Street.  This link with pop culture has provided people of all ages tantalizing tastes of Carmen throughout their lifetimes as well as hummable tunes they will readily recognize when Bizet’s powerful music fills the Mead Theatre at the Schuster. 

This production also marks the Dayton Performing Arts Alliance’s final Signature Event of the season with the full Dayton Ballet company joining Dayton Opera and the Philharmonic for this truly grand opera production. In keeping with the grand opera tradition, Dayton Ballet Artistic Director Karen Russo Burke will choreograph stunning dances for her talented company to add to the intrigue and passion of Bizet’s tour de force

Scenery for this production is from the Lyric Opera of Kansas City, designed by R. Keith Brumley*.  Costumes are designed by Dean Brown, originally for Cincinnati Opera, with wig and makeup design by Cass Brake and Tom Venditelli.  Lighting design is by Dayton Opera resident lighting designer, John Rensel.

Don’t miss the opera that shocked Paris with its frankness and made Bizet’s enduring fame.

Want to learn even more about the magnificence of Carmen? Come one hour prior to both performances to hear pre-performance talks presented by UD Music Professor Dr. Sam Dorf.  Delicious “Opera bites” are also available for purchase in the Wintergarden before the performance and at the first intermission.

Tickets for this production of Carmen range from $32 to $98 and are available at www.daytonperformingarts.org or by calling Ticket Center Stage at (937) 228-3630. Senior and student discounts are available.  For more information or to order subscriptions to the upcoming 2017-2018 Dayton Opera Season, or any of the Dayton Performing Arts Alliance Series, please visit www.daytonperformingarts.org.

*Dayton Opera Debut


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About the Dayton Performing Arts Alliance 
The Dayton Performing Arts Alliance was formed in July 2012 as the result of a groundbreaking and innovative merger between the Dayton Ballet, the Dayton Opera, and the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra. Together, they are the largest performing arts organization in the community, offering a tremendous variety of performance and education programs and setting a new standard for artistic excellence.  Dayton Performing Arts Alliance performances are made possible in part by Montgomery County and Culture Works, the single largest source of community funds for the arts and culture in the Miami Valley. The Dayton Performing Arts Alliance also receives partial funding from the Ohio Arts Council, a state agency created to foster and encourage the development of the arts and to preserve Ohio's cultural heritage. Funding from the Ohio Arts Council is an investment of state tax dollars that promotes economic growth, educational excellence, and cultural enrichment for all Ohio residents.  The Dayton Performing Arts Alliance is proud to be one of five performing arts organizations in the country selected to receive a three-year "Music Alive" grant from New Music USA and the League of American Orchestras.
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