Tonight we open Carmen in Hamilton, Ontario, under the baton of Boris Brott and led by an impressive cast of Canadian singers. We've had a great time putting this together, guided by Italian director Giandomenico Vaccari (more on that later!).
This is a semi-staged concert version, but while the set is minimal, Carmen's gypsy spirit is there in spades. The National Academy Orchestra is sounding amazing. Made up of seasoned players and emerging professional musicians, the band has all the finesse of established performers combined with the enthusiasm and energy of young pros. It's been a real pleasure to work with them. And with the fabulous Arcady Singers giving their all in the famous chorus numbers, the audience is in for a real treat.
The rehearsal process has been short (we only started a week ago!) but it's been a blast.
First, all of the cast have been great to work with and many are old friends. We've worked hard, but we've laughed a lot and I think the fun we're having comes through on stage. Yes, I know Carmen's a tragedy, but as an old acting teacher of mine once said, even in the throes of angst, you need to be having serious fun up there!
Second, we're very lucky to have had the chance to work with Signor Vaccari. He'd led or worked at some of the biggest opera houses in Italy, including the Teatro Petruzelli in Bari, the San Carlo in Naples, and the Giuseppe Verdi Theatre in Trieste. We knew going in that we'd have to dust off our conversational Italian, and I'm proud to say we've been pretty good at understanding the direction and communicating our questions (Maestro Brott is an able interpreter when push comes to shove!).
But the translator in me was most intrigued by how the mood of rehearsals took on a distinctly Italian flavour right from the get-go. The energy level was turbo-charged, and Signor Vaccari's passion for his craft was contagious. It's always fascinating to see how working in another language shifts the tone. The result is a production with an intense and spirited vibe!
An opera sung in French, set in Spain and directed by an Italian. There's going to more passion up on that stage than Hamilton has seen in a loooong time.
In boca al lupo!