This show has the tragic touch!
Brooklyn’s oldest opera company will kick off its 50th season with perennial favorite “Carmen.” The 19th century tragedy by Georges Bizet, opening on Nov. 23, is a story of forbidden love that viewers adore because of its timeless themes of jealousy and revenge, said the show’s director.
“At the core, there’s a lot of truth about the relationships between people,” said Linda Lehr.
Regina Opera Company will go all out for this production, hiring dozens of singers decked out as 19th century Spanish peasants, featuring a full, 35-piece orchestra, and projecting an English translation of the French songs above the stage, Lehr said.
The company stages “Carmen” about every five years, said Lehr. The popular show keeps opera-lovers coming back to see new interpretations of the fan favorite.
“It’s always new even if you do it several times,” Lehr said. Many aficionados return for each production to see how a different actress will put her spin on the infamous title character, she noted.
The upcoming season marks a milestone for the opera company, which was founded by Dyker Heights residents Marie Cantoni and Nick Tierno in 1970, after Cantoni heard Tierno’s brother singing gorgeous arias on Tabor Court every morning. The small project has since evolved into a training ground for opera’s up-and-coming stars, becoming one of the few places where young soloists can get their singing sea legs, Lehr noted.
“It’s where people learn their craft,” she said. “It’s how we grow the next generation.”
In 1980, now-world-famous mezzo soprano Dolora Zajick got her start singing “Cavalleria Rusticana” — now one of her signature pieces — at the company. In this year’s production of “Carmen,” about half the cast is new to Regina Opera, said Lehr.
Other opera institutions have struggled with waning audiences, but Regina Opera continues to thrive because of its outreach efforts, according to it chairwoman.
“We reach out to young people,” said Francine Garber, noting that teenagers pay $5 for tickets, and children 12 and younger enter free. “A lot of young people studying music come to New York City.”
Garber added that producing well-known operas, like Carmen, helps attract new viewers to the company.
“People who haven’t seen opera — we try to entice them by doing ‘Carmen,’ ” said Garber. “It’s a good starting point.”
“Carmen” at Regina Opera Company [5902 Sixth Ave. between 59th and 60th streets in Sunset Park, (718) 259–2772, www.reginaopera.org]. Nov. 23–24, Nov. 30 and Dec. 1 at 3 pm. $25 ($20 students and seniors, $5 teens, kids free).