H-LOCAL SPOTLIGHT

Oct 10, 2013 4:26 PM by Dan Shadwell

"Carmen" aims to charm audiences at the PAC in SLO

This weekend, five distinct arts organizations will join forces to produce one of the most popular stage shows ever.

The "Carmen Project" will incorporate the talents of the Central Coast Children's Choir,... the Cuesta College Concert Choir,... Civic Ballet San Luis Obispo,... the San Luis Obispo Symphony,... and Opera San Luis Obispo.

Together, they tell the story of the working girl who refused to reserve her love for one man.

"It's the grandest form of classical music on the planet," explains Brian Asher Aladeff, the artistic and general director of the Opera San Luis Obispo. " 'Carmen' was written in 1875 and it's the first verismo opera of its kind," he says.

"But it's really fun," says Jenna Lee, one of the gypsy dancers, "... because it's very slinky, very like, night-clubby."

The word "Verismo" is derived from Italian, meaning natural or real. In this case, it means a story focused on colorful, everyday people, living hardscrabble lives.
"It centers around the gypsy and fallen woman, Carmen, and her band of gypsies and how they interact in a city of regular people, policemen, bull fighters, café workers, cigarette girls, all sorts of things," says Alhadeff.

Appropriately enough, harnessing the energy of a small community is key to this production, though not all of the groups are rehearsing all at the same time.
Jordan Cohen says a few of the organizations have paired up as needed. "The dancers are rehearsing their parts separately. There's chorus rehearsing on their own, and all of the groups come together during the staging rehearsals to bring all of the parts they've been working on."

Lee says the dancers are thrown for a bit of a loop when the musicians gather. "We're so used to having the CD running at perfect tempo and no little riffs or changes in the music, so it's fun and interesting to see how having the live orchestra changes how you have to dance. Then you have the opera singers, which we've never met before, and their voices are just amazing. it really puts a new perspective on our dancing."

"In many ways, it's the olympics of classical music," Alhadeff explains. "We have dance, we have orchestra, we've got chorus, we've got soloists, we've got scenes, we've got costumes, all textile and visual artists come together in one massive celebration."

Cohen says the excitement is building as the performance dates near. "I like being a part of the process of bringing everything together and seeing everything click," he says.

"Carmen" runs for just two shows, so you don't want to miss them this weekend at the PAC in San Luis Obispo. The first is Saturday night at 7. The second is a Sunday matinee at 2pm. Ticket prices start at just $10. For tickets and more information, just click on this link: http://operaslo.org/concerts-and-events/index.html

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