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Reflections on Carmen and the LAMF

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Quote of the Day: Love is a bird rebellious, that nothing not can tame, and it is truly in vain that one calls him, if it wants to refuse. Nothing helps, threats or entreaties, one fellow speaks well, the next one keeps silent; And it’s the other one whom I prefer, he has’t anything said but he pleases. me. Love is a child of Bohemia, it hasn’t ever known about laws; If you do not love me, I love you; If I love you, watch out for yourself. That bird that you thought to surprise flapped its wings and flew away… Love is far away, you can wait for it; You don’t wait any longer, it is there. All around you, quickly, quickly, it comes, it goes away, then it comes back… You think that you have it, it avoids you, you think to avoid it, it holds you. Carmen’s aria, Habanera (music with catchy rhythms, it’s the tune that sticks in your head long after the show is over! in a good way) Here is a Youtube clip from the Royal Opera (not the Lakes Area Music Fest, just so you can hear that familiar tune, if you’d like.) The famous Toreador song that you hear for the bullfighters is also in Carmen! For some reason it made me giggle whenever they struck up the chorus. Speaking of the chorus. My son Zach Rude (seated behind Carmen in the photo below) was invited to sing in the adult chorus for this production. It is a full professional production that played right here in the Brainerd lakes area for the Lakes Area Music Fest (LAMF).

The opera “Carmen” by Georges Bizet performed Saturday at Tornstrom Auditorium in Brainerd as part of the Lakes Area Music Festival. Free performances continue through Aug. 20 with a British Isles concert Aug. 16 and Concerto for Orchestra concert Aug. 19 and Aug. 20. (Kelly Humphrey, Brainerd Dispatch – Gallery and Video)

Most people recognize many of the tunes from Carmen, a French opera by Georges Bizet. As John Birge, from MN public radio, said in his pre-show interviews with director JJ Hudson and conductor Andrew Altenbach, the themes and songs from Carmen have been done in everything from Gilligan’s Island to hip hop, starring Beyonce’! Miss Piggy has done Carmen! It is said to be one of the most popular operas, and I can see why. The story is about regular folk. It’s the gypsy, untamable girl, working her black magic on the young soldier who wants to possess her. But, “Love is a bird rebellious, that nothing not can tame.” So, is Carmen. She is free-love, free-spirit, independent. She loves fiercely and briefly, then moves on. While Don Jose’ will do anything for her, he loses himself in the end. He never learns that love is not obsession, nor possession, and gives into his male dominance ego and need to conquer. 

It was thrilling to see Carmen produced right here in the Brainerd lakes area, free of charge and accessible to anyone. (Of course, they’d love a donation.) The mission of founders Scott Lykins and John Taylor Ward is to provide exceptional classical music experience to the people of the area, and to draw in music lovers to our area. Through their own contacts as professional musicians, they invite world class performers to central Minnesota to perform. Carolyn Sproule, mezzo-soprano, who played Carmen so beautifully, has sung at The Metropolitan Opera, and numerous opera halls in Europe and the United States. She is a graduate of Julliard and Rice University. It was as if Bizet had her in mind when he wrote the role of Carmen. Sproule has the vocal talent, the facial expressions, and the exotic moves that create this character in a way that enchanted us all. She understands this character, Carmen, who is fully in control up until the final scene where not even she can escape a man’s brutality. I can’t even imagine anyone else playing, and singing, this role so exquisitely.

Mackenzie Whitney, tenor, plays the smitten Don Jose’. He is handsome and hopeless, and understands that his character is utterly bewitched by Carmen, and he has become obsessed with having her. His love song in Act II is soulful and heart-wrenching. He put so much emotion into his performance that I thought the entire audience sighed at the end. A man from the back yelled, “Bravo,” and we all exploded into applause. 

The character Micaela, played by Jacqueline Bolier, drifts in and out of the story, trying to call Don Jose’ back to his roots, back to his mother. Her solos bring you to another place with strength and yearning. But, alas, they can’t bring Don Jose’ home.

Andrew Lovato, baritone, sings the Toreador, backed up by the chorus, and like I said, it brought smiles to our faces. He has a big voice, a large presence, and snatches Carmen right out of Don Jose’s hands. Keith Brown and John Allen Nelson both have great roles, and voice, as Dragoons, and William Lee Bryan and David Walton play a pair of delightful smugglers. They have a great comic song in Act II along with Siena Forest as Frasquita and Bergen Baker as Mercedes, and Carmen. The quintet is so much fun to watch. At the curtain call after Sunday’s performance, the woman sitting next to me leaned over to her husband, pointed at Will, and said, “He has a tremendous voice. Powerful.” The audience loved Carmen. They rose for the standing ovation even before the performers got back on stage. They surged with applause for the marvelous orchestra. This was truly an amazing performance.

Thank you, Scott, Taylor, and the Lakes Area Music Festival for bringing such tremendous talent and classical music experiences to the Brainerd lakes area. Thank you for including my son Zach. He said it was an amazing experience working with all the professionals. He made great connections, as did I meeting another opera mom in the audience. This production also included the Northfield Youth Choirs, who were delightful. LAMF also puts on a workshop for kids called Explore Music and has side by side rehearsals for youth and community members. I wrote an article for Her Voice “Mastering Music,” on three young people who were inspired by LAMF to go on to study and pursue careers in music. 

The LAMF has also done several orchestral concerts at Tornstrom in Brainerd, as well as smaller concerts as various venues throughout the lakes area. John Taylor Ward, baritone singer, had a tremendous solo concert, called In a Distant Land, accompanied by Tanya Gabrielian on the piano, Daniel Lippel on guitar, and Doug Perry playing numerous percussion instruments which was so fascinating to watch. It was the most unique, and wonderful concert I’ve seen/heard. LAMF will conclude its summer series with two more orchestra performances, British Isles on Wednesday, August 16, 7:00 p.m. featuring Johnathan Magness on violin, and Concerto for Orchestra on Saturday, August, 19, 7:00 pm. and Sunday, August 20, at 2:00 p.m. Visit their website to learn more about LAMF and follow them and learn about what they have lined up for next year. (You can go ahead and do Carmen again with all the same people. Thanks.)

Here is a link to an article in the Brainerd Dispatch on Scott Lykins receiving an award for his work with LAMF.

Go. Create. Inspire!

Journaling Prompt: Have you ever seen/heard an opera? Do you have a favorite? What is your favorite instrument?

  1. This is a story that never stops intriguing audiences. I love the music and never tire of it either.

    • Thanks, Lee. It is wonderful. I can see why it’s a favorite of many. (This post is incomplete. I have a little more to say about the production, and photos are pending!)

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