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CARMEN Announced at Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts

Stage director Sara E. Widzer and maestro Kelly Kuo lead a stellar ensemble to tell this classic story.

CARMEN Announced at Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts

Opera Orlando welcomes an incredible cast representative of the rich culture of Haiti in the 1960s, as Georges Bizet's fiery masterwork Carmen takes the stage at Dr. Phillips Center on April 1 and 3.

Audiences are in for an exciting and original take on this classic work set in the treacherous and tumultuous city of Port-au-Prince under the thumb of President Duvalier, "Papa Doc." Stage director Sara E. Widzer and maestro Kelly Kuo lead a stellar ensemble to tell this classic story in a compellingly intense way. "Carmen's plight is not some far-removed historical fiction. It is a universal story of survival as relevant today as it was when Mérimée wrote the novella on which the opera is based," says artistic director Grant Preisser. "Setting this story in Haiti allows us to take Opera out of its Euro-centric trappings and celebrate the diversity of singers currently building their careers in opera."

Mezzo-soprano Briana Hunter, described as "radiant" by The New York Times and as "a mesmerizing Carmen" by Opera News, takes on the title role in her Orlando debut. Ms. Hunter recently debuted as Hannah Before with New York City Opera in the American Opera Projects production of Laura Kaminsky's As One. She also recently created the role of Dee Dee Reyes in Hilliard and Boresi's The Last American Hammer with UrbanArias, performed the roles of Annie and Strawberry Woman in Porgy and Bess at the Glimmerglass Festival, and sang the roles of Giovanna in Rigoletto and Gertrude Stein in Ricky Ian Gordon's 27 at Michigan Opera Theatre, for which she won the Encore Michigan award for Best Performance in an Opera.

She is joined by international tenor and recording artist Noah Stewart, also making his Company debut as Don José. Mr. Stewart has established himself as one of the most sought-after singers of his generation. Most recently, he performed the title role in Les contes d'Hoffmann with Nashville Opera, in which he was praised for "his vibrant tenor, soaring to unbelievable heights." Mr. Stewart made his professional debut with San Francisco Opera and has since performed widely across the United States. In spring 2012, he made his debut at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden and has since performed at the Bregenzer Festspiele (Austria), Teatro Real Madrid, English National Opera, and the Bolshoi Opera. Further European career highlights include Rodolfo in La Bohème with Wexford Opera Festival and Don José at Royal Albert Hall.

"Scene-stealing" baritone Norman Garrett makes his Company debut in the role of the dashing but dangerous Escamillo. Mr. Garrett was a Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist at Washington National Opera, and in addition to performing various roles with that company, he has also sung with Houston Grand Opera, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Toronto Symphony, and the Metropolitan Opera, where he sang the role of Jim in Porgy & Bess, which won the Grammy this year for best opera recording. Fellow Porgy & Bess cast member and "luminous" and "lush" soprano Brittany Renee returns to Opera Orlando to sing the role of Micaela. Local audiences will remember her as the stunning Countess in last season's production of The Marriage of Figaro, as well as her hilarious and sexy Lieutenant Constanze in the 2018 production of The Abduction from the Seraglio.

This is just a sampling of the fantastic cast navigating the seductive world of Carmen in 1960s Haiti, and they are equally matched by a brilliant and diverse production team that include Haitian linguist Dr. Jean-Elie Gilles, who provided the Creole translation of the dialogue; Haitian-American and New York-based choreographer Maxine Montilus; Nigerian-American and award-winning costume designer Kristie Chiyere Osi Shackelford; and hair design by local Floridian and African-American Anika Seitu.

Opera Orlando, in partnership with Dr. Phillips Center, continues to implement social distancing and COVID protocols for all in-person events and productions, prioritizing audience safety. Additionally, the Opera will broadcast its MainStage series online to give its patrons the opportunity to watch the opera from the safety and security of their homes. This season, take advantage of seeing Carmen in person and enjoy it all over again online.

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