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Livermore Valley Opera Opens Season with Bizet's 'Carmen'

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Posted: Friday, September 13, 2013 12:00 am

The Livermore Valley Opera presents Bizet’s Carmen, a dramatic story of passion and its consequences,to launch its 2013-14 season.

Performances are opening night, Sept. 28 at 8 p.m.; Sept. 29 at 2 p.m.; Oct. 5 at 8 p.m. and Oct. 6 at 2 p.m.

An opening night gala celebration will be held at Uncle Yu's at the Vineyard starting at 4:30 p.m.

Set in sultry Spain, Bizet’s Carmen tells the story of a beguiling gypsy who sets her sights on a naïve but passionate young corporal, tracing a tale of seduction, obsession and deadly betrayal. Carmen is full of sizzling opera hits including the famous “Habanera” and the irresistible Toreador song.

“Carmen is a beautiful free spirit, a rebel who refuses to be tamed by any man, even if it means her life,” explains Alexander Katsman, LVO’s Artistic Director and Music Conductor. “With dazzling costumes, LVO’s largest set and a full orchestra playing Bizet’s famous melodies, Carmen will fill your senses with powerful drama and music.”

Returning to direct his second LVO production is Tony Award winner Eugene Brancoveanu who will also sing the part of Escamillo. Brancoveanu’s direction of Carmen is anticipated to be as successful as his direction of La bohème last fall, which was critically acclaimed as a “strong production” and “a hit with the audience.” And that is because Brancoveanu puts his whole self into understanding the characters, the story and the emotion of the opera.

“Reinventing a beloved classic like Carmen is a responsibility that I cannot take lightly,” says Brancoveanu. “Carmen as an opera is so beloved because of the variety of its characters. As a director, I immerse myself into the opera, its characters, to discover what motivates them to do what they do. We all have a little bit of Carmen and a little bit of Don Jose in us, and so the audience will ask questions for which I must create an answer in the performance. Why do the characters do what they do? How do they overcome their obstacles? What stops them from getting what they want? What if I were in their shoes? Finding and depicting those answers is a director’s greatest challenge.”

The liveliness of familiar melodies such as “Habanera” and the Torreador Song will appeal to life-long opera lovers and those wishing to discover opera for the first time.

“The musical genius in Bizet's masterpiece is always present,” explains Brancoveanu. “Almost every single aria is a show stopper. The fact that each act moves along so quickly makes it perfect for opera newcomers.”

Brancoveanu says that the cast is uniformly strong. Mezzo-soprano Cybele Gouvernuer is Carmen and tenor Chris Bengochea is Don José. “I feel very privileged to be among them and to direct them. Chris Bengochea will be a wonderful Jose and Cybele Gouvernuer will be a smoldering Carmen. She has performed this role before which is a tremendous advantage for me.” Brancoveanu will sing the role of Escamillo whose baritone voice was hailed as “a force of nature” in his La bohème performance last fall.

Opera week special events are as follows:

Opening Night Galas at Uncle’s Yu’s at the Vineyards: Gala ticket includes wine, appetizers and dinner at Uncle Yu's at the Vineyard, followed by a dessert reception in the Bankhead Theater lobby. The welcome reception of wine and appetizers begins at 4:30 pm and seating at 5:00 pm at Uncle Yu's, conveniently located one-half block from the theater. Guests will have a chance to meet the Stage Director Eugene Brancoveanu and Alexander Katsman, LVO’s Artistic Director and Music Conductor. The opening night gala is underwritten by Charlene McKenney, Managing Director of Northwestern Mutual. Gala Tickets are $85, and are available through Bankhead Theater box office. Proceeds allow for LVO to continue its mission of bringing quality opera to the Tri-Valley and beyond.

Ice Cream & Opera: Sunday matinees of Livermore Valley Opera productions offer an extra tasty treat with ice cream for all at intermission. Ice cream for this event is donated by Safeway.

Pre-opera talk; artists reception: Included in the ticket price are pre-opera talks providing insights to the featured opera, held one hour prior to curtain. LVO’s traditional artists reception is held in the lobby immediately following each performance.

The Bankhead Theater is located at 2400First Street in downtown Livermore. Tickets are adults $39-$74, students 18 and younger $10 off on all days, all seating sections (student ID required). Opening night Gala tickets are a separate ticket purchase of $85.

Tickets may be purchased at the box office, online at www.bankheadtheater.org or by calling 373-6800.