Photo Flash: First Look at Clementine Margaine, Michael Todd Simpson & More in WNO's CARMEN

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Washington National Opera (WNO) opens its 2015-2016 season with a newto-Washington staging of Georges Bizet's popular classic Carmen, September 19 to October 3 in the Kennedy Center Opera House. Starring two French mezzo-sopranos-Clémentine Margaine and Géraldine Chauvet- in the title role, this production also showcases two stars of flamenco dance, principal dancers Timo Nuñez (Fox's So You Think You Can Dance) and Fanny Ara. The production is staged by American director E. Loren Meeker and the WNO Orchestra is led by American conductor Evan Rogister. A special performance on Friday, October 2 features casting by current singers and alumni of WNO's Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program.

Sensual, rebellious, mercurial-that's the provocative gypsy Carmen. And to the dutiful soldier Don José, she is too much to handle...yet maddeningly irresistible. In a moment of unbridled passion, Don José ultimately surrenders to Carmen's seductive charms, forcing him to desert the army and abandon his childhood sweetheart Micaëla for an outlaw's life in the 2 mountains. But once Carmen scorns his affections for the handsome matador Escamillo, her fiery act of betrayal ignites Don José's jealous rage, leading to shocking, murderous consequences. This sizzling production of one of opera's most famous and well-known works shifts the classic story to a Latin American setting smoldering with sensuality and danger. The familiar music pulses with erotic power-from the memorable overture to Carmen's rousing "Habanera" aria to the famous "Toreador Song"-all culminating in an unforgettable finale at a bullfight.

The stellar cast is led by two extraordinary French mezzo-sopranos. Clémentine Margaine is one of the world's reigning Carmens, having performed the role in Berlin, Munich, Rome, and Dallas, with future engagements planned in New York, Chicago, Paris, Berlin, Naples, and Toronto. This production marks her WNO debut. Géraldine Chauvet, who dazzled WNO audiences as Fenena in Nabucco in 2012, returns to WNO in the role that first brought her international acclaim in 2009 at the Arena di Verona under the baton of former WNO General Director Plácido Domingo.

Sharing the role of Don José are two powerhouse tenors: Bryan Hymel, one of opera's fastest-rising stars who is particularly celebrated for his roles in the French repertory, makes his WNO debut with this production; and Rafael Davila, last seen at WNO in The Force of Destiny and Norma. The dashing toreador Escamillo is sung by Michael Todd Simpson (WNO's Florencia in the Amazon and Show Boat) and former Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Aleksey Bogdanov, a veteran of 10 WNO productions. The innocent Micaëla is played by Operalia and Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions winner Janai Brugger in her WNO debut, and Jacqueline Echols, a former Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist last seen at WNO as the wicked stepsister Clorinda in Cinderella and as Musetta in the Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Performance of La bohème.

Members of WNO's Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program also figure prominently in the cast. Two alumni of the program sing featured roles-bass Kenneth Kellogg is Zuniga and baritone Christian Bowers sings El Dancairo. Current members of the program in the cast include tenor Rexford Tester as El Remendado, baritone Hunter Enoch as Moralès, soprano Ariana Wehr as Frasquita, and mezzo-soprano Aleksandra Romano as Mercédès.

Photo Credit: Scott Suchman

high res photos

Photo Flash: First Look at Clementine Margaine, Michael Todd Simpson & More in WNO's CARMEN
Clémentine Margaine

Photo Flash: First Look at Clementine Margaine, Michael Todd Simpson & More in WNO's CARMEN
Fanny Ara and Timo Nuñez

Photo Flash: First Look at Clementine Margaine, Michael Todd Simpson & More in WNO's CARMEN
Clémentine Margaine and Michael Todd Simpson

Photo Flash: First Look at Clementine Margaine, Michael Todd Simpson & More in WNO's CARMEN
Bryan Hymel and Janai Brugger

Photo Flash: First Look at Clementine Margaine, Michael Todd Simpson & More in WNO's CARMEN
Clémentine Margaine and Michael Todd Simpson

Photo Flash: First Look at Clementine Margaine, Michael Todd Simpson & More in WNO's CARMEN
Ariana Wehr, Michael Todd Simpson, and Aleksandra Romano



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