Festival Opera announced plans for the company’s 2023 season highlighted by a bold new production of Georges Bizet’s Carmen, a work at the heart of the repertory and one of the most performed operas in the world, set for August 18 and 20 at the Lesher Center for the Arts. Preceding these performances, Festival Opera’s 32nd anniversary season will officially launch with two popular and beloved Opera in the Park concerts – the first set for June 22 at the verdant Orinda Community Park, and the other at Walnut Creek’s Civic Park on August 6.
Festival Opera General Director Zachary Gordin, said “It is with great pride that Festival Opera celebrates its 32nd anniversary season with a refreshed, contemporary interpretation of Bizet’s iconic opera, Carmen. I’m especially pleased to present a cast of rising, highly talented opera stars in such a collaborative stage production that will surely resonate with Bay Area audiences. And what better way to begin our season than with a pair of Opera in the Park concerts, reaffirming Festival Opera’s commitment to enriching the lives of our community with programming of exceptional music from Grand Opera to Broadway and beyond. I look forward to welcoming you to Festival Opera’s season.”
The company returns to the beautiful setting of the Orinda Community Park Thursday, June 22 at 6 p.m., with the 13th Annual Opera in the Park concert graciously sponsored by the Rotary Club of Orinda, with grateful thanks and appreciation to the City of Orinda Parks and Recreation Department and sponsor Compass Realtor, Pablo Tiscareno. An ensemble of Festival Opera singers accompanied by pianist Chun Mei Wilson will delight audiences with a concert of popular music from the worlds of opera, Broadway and the Great American Songbook. Free and ample lawn seating awaits attendees with a selection of food and wine trucks to enable their summer repast al fresco. The park is located at 28 Orinda Way.
On Sunday, August 6 at 4 p.m., Festival Opera will joyfully revisit the lush grounds of Walnut Creek’s Civic Park for a different Opera in the Park program, this one made possible by the Walnut Creek Civic Pride Foundation. This free community concert will feature Festival Opera singers in highlights from Bizet’s Carmen among many other greatest hits from the world of grand opera; Chun Mei Wilson will accompany the artists on piano. An idyllic setting for a late summer afternoon concert of beautiful music and new cherished memories. The park is located at 1375 Civic Drive.
For only the second time in the company’s history, Festival Opera presents Bizet’s Carmen, his final work for the lyric theater stage in 1875 prior to his tragically early death at age 36. The groundbreaking work abounds with raw energy and enduring melodic inspiration, wrapped within a plot that is startling in its uncompromising realism. In many ways, Carmen was foundational for the blood-and-guts genre of verismo, even while its origins in opéra comique are evident throughout the score: this is an opera that celebrates irony, dance and song itself, and l’amour – despite the tragic finale.
Curated by Zachary Gordin, an impressive roster of rising operatic stars has been assembled for Carmen beginning with the highly anticipated company debut of “vocal sensation,” mezzo-soprano Taylor Raven* in the title role of the Iberian Gypsy, Carmen; the welcome return of successful Festival Opera alumni, soprano Hope Briggs (Micaëla) and tenor Dane Suarez (Don José); and the company premier of “magnificent” baritone, Young Kwang Yoo* (Escamillo).