If you only see one opera in your life, let it be Carmen, written by Bizet and first performed in 1875. I am not personally a huge opera fan, yet I was beguiled by this opera originally from the Otto Preminger 1954 film Carmen Jones, starring Dorothy Dandridge. This was in English and also featured Pearl Bailey, and made this iconic story accessible for me. I was kindly given a press pass to the Carmen opera currently playing at the Music Center in Los Angeles and the opera was spectacular.
I arrived early to hear the excellent pre-performance talk by KUSC’s Alan Chapman, which was most interesting and informative. Prior to that, I enjoyed some lunch out on the plaza of the Music Center, which features a beautiful and moving “Peace” sculpture by Lipschitz.
Then we got settled in our seats. Mine was quite a good one, near the front on the right side. As soon as those thrilling and unforgettable melodies started playing in the beautiful music hall, I was hooked. From the costumes, to the lighting, to the sets and of course the outstanding musicianship of the orchestra and especially the virtuosity of the singers, it was all quite a moving experience. It was all highly enjoyable, despite the 3 l/2 hour length.
They do give you regular intermissions, however, make sure you zip right out and back again, or they can and do lock the door on you! I also found a reasonably priced parking lot across the street, $9 is much better than directly under the Music Center.
What made the day even more special was the conductor. Placido Domingo, of The Three Tenors fame, did a spirited and enthusiastic job leading the outstanding orchestra.
Mr. Chapman in the pre-opera talk said Carmen is one of the ABC Operas: Aida, La Boheme, and Carmen, the three most popular and well-known operas of all. And no wonder. All three deliver musical excitement to anyone who has ears. Carmen literally gave me chills, and I came home and promptly downloaded from iTunes the classic recording of Maria Callas playing the lead in Carmen. This is quite a different take than the arrangement we experienced Sunday, yet also wonderful.
The icing on the cake was when I was walking back to my car, who should come out a side door but none other than the friendly and beautiful Cybill Shepherd! She was there to also enjoy the opera, and we had a lovely brief chat and I snapped her photo. The entire day was magical.
My thanks to the Los Angeles Opera Public Relations office for their hospitality, it was an afternoon I will not soon forget. For more information or tickets to this and the other fine performances at the LA Opera visit laopera.com or call 213 972-8001.