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Chicago Opera Theater's Daring CARMEN Stars Barton and Blythe


Jamie Barton makes title role debut opposite Stephanie Blythe as Don José.

Chicago Opera Theater's Daring CARMEN Stars Barton and Blythe

This September, Chicago audiences will have the truly rare opportunity to hear two world-class dramatic mezzo-sopranos debut new roles opposite one another in Chicago Opera Theater's Carmen. Jamie Barton will make her role debut as the titular femme fatale while Blythely Oratonio, the tenor alter ego of the legendary Stephanie Blythe, will sing his first Don José.

"Though Bizet's melodies are familiar to many opera-goers, this will be a very different perspective on an operatic classic," said COT Music Director Lidiya Yankovskaya, who will conduct the semi-staged concert performances. "It's also a unique opportunity to hear these inimitable artists exploring brand-new territory. Jamie Barton is long overdue in her debut as Carmen, and I'm thrilled that Stephanie Blythe will be joining us in a new role that fits her truly unusual voice like a glove."

"We talk a lot at COT about expanding the tradition of opera as a living art form," added General Director Ashley Magnus. "Often that means performing new works or ensuring our audiences can see themselves reflected in the stories we tell on stage. But evolving perspectives on standard repertoire can be another important part of that mission. Carmen audiences will share a one-of-a-kind operatic experience ­- and leave with a broadened perspective of the incredible spectrum of possibilities for the human voice."

That spectrum will be considered in two free community events offered in the lead-up to opening night. On Tuesday, August 31, What The Fach? will explore the fluidity of vocal types, featuring a discussion between Carmen star Stephanie Blythe, acclaimed countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo, and writer Aiden Feltkamp, who curated the recently published Anthology of New Music: Trans & Nonbinary Voices. On Thursday, September 9, the public is invited to Center on Halsted, the Midwest's most comprehensive LGBTQ community center, for Close-Up with Carmen. Featuring opera historian, dramaturg, and UCLA professor Dr. Katherine Syer, this conversation will focus on the history of cross-dressing in opera, including live performance excerpts, and examine ways in which stereotypes can be broken down as traditions evolve.

With stage direction by Joachim Schamberger, Carmen will be performed in French with English subtitles, without chorus, and will run approximately two hours with one intermission. Carmen premieres on Thursday, September 16, 2021, at 7:30 pm, with one additional performance on Saturday, September 18, 2021, at 3 pm. Ticket ($45-$150) are available at

All attendees will be required to wear a mask covering both nose and mouth while inside the Harris Theater, which will be filled to a maximum of 60% capacity. To enter, you must show proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 by presenting your vaccination card and photo ID or by using the My Bindle app. Alternately, the theater will accept a negative PCR test result within 72 hours of the event or a negative rapid antigen test result within six hours of the event. More details on COT's COVID-19 protocols can be found at

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