Opera Grand Rapids
DeVos Performance Hall
Oct. 31 & Nov. 1, 7:30 p.m.
operagr.com, (616) 451-2741
Whether you realize it or not, you are probably already familiar with Carmen. One of the most popular operas in existence, the tempestuous tragedy has permeated American culture, with references popping up in everything from Doritos ads to the Pixar film, Up.
If, for some reason, the only Carmen you know has the last name San Diego, you still know more about the opera than you think. You’ve seen enough pseudo-Cinderella flicks to know about romancing someone from a different social class. You’ve felt the anguish of unrequited infatuation when your celeb crush finally ties the knot. And you certainly know what it’s like to allow fits of passion to drive you to do something stupid. Like most great operas, Carmen resonates at a universal level because it addresses essential human struggles and desires.
The opera’s plot centers around the femme fatale Carmen, a cigarette factory worker as smoldering and addictive as the products she manufactures. While Carmen’s irresistible attributes allow her to dominate the men in her path, her seductive charms ultimately end up being her undoing.
Even when presented with such a dramatic storyline, some newcomers may have difficulty envisioning a trip to the opera as a rousing and moving experience. Those tensely bracing themselves for a dull performance of mature, wooden actors are in for a surprise, however.
“Don’t expect to come to the opera house these days and see a lot of people who are very static and just stand around on stage to sound good,” Conductor and Artistic Director Robert Lyall said. “You get much more total theatre now. I’m so happy with the changes in the style that have evolved over the past couple of decades …
I audition [the actors] in New York City, and I try to take a lot of care in casting so that people look like the characters and they sing well, and that they can really act. So what people can do is set aside that old ‘It ain’t over till the fat lady sings’ because the Carmen is quite beautiful and there ain’t no fat lady.”
In keeping with its careful casting, the visual design of Opera Grand Rapids’ performance is also constructed to create vivid, believable characters. While the story is universal enough to unfold in nearly any place and time, traditional sets allow for a natural feel and prevent the backgrounds from pulling focus from the characters.
“These are traditional settings and the set that we’re using from New Orleans Opera will in fact convey just that—that it’s traditional recognizable settings, not abstract," Lyall said. "So that the attention instead of causing people to think why did they put it there or why did they choose that kind of look, they can focus on the characters and their costumes and their attitude and their singing.”
Other Performing Arts Events
Jekyll & Hyde
Miller Auditorium, Kalamazoo
Oct. 3-4, show times at 2 & 8 p.m.
millerauditorium.com, (269) 387-2300
Based on the acclaimed novella by Robert Louis Stevenson, Jekyll & Hyde puts a pop-rock spin on one of culture's most famous psychological thrillers. The dark tale centers around brilliant doctor and scientist, Dr. Henry Jekyll, who becomes convinced that there is a good side and a bad side to every personality. When Jekyll attempts to isolate his evil half, pandemonium breaks lose and Jekyll’s inner darkness takes over.
My Fair Lady
Kalamazoo Civic Theatre
Oct. 2-5, 10-12; show times at 2 & 7:30 p.m.
kazoocivic.com, (269) 343-1313
An essential Broadway classic, My Fair Lady tells the story of the pompous elocutionist, Henry Higgins and the fiery London street urchin, Eliza Doolittle. Accepting the challenge of a friend, Higgins takes on the seemingly impossible project of training Eliza to speak and act like a true lady. While Higgins struggles to teach his pupil about upper-class society, Eliza beings to teach Higgins lessons of the heart. Musical favorites like “I Could Have Danced All Night” and “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly,” make this show one of Broadway’s most memorable.
The Rocky Horror Show
Dog Story Theater, Grand Rapids
Oct. 31-Nov. 2, 4-9; show times at 3, 8 & 11:59 p.m.
dogstorytheater.com, (616) 452-9234
Based on one of the ultimate cult films, Rocky Horror is the perfect comedic thriller for Halloween week. All the iconic numbers, raunchy innuendos and campy characters return for an unforgettable live performance. The story centers around conventional newlyweds Brad and Janet, who stumble upon a castle owned by Dr. Frank-N-Furter, an alien transvestite. Time-warped shenanigans ensue as the doctor reveals that he has created a new life: the golden-haired Adonis, Rocky.