Like it hot?: Telluride’s Palm Theatre presents Bizet’s “Carmen”

Like it hot?: Telluride’s Palm Theatre presents Bizet’s “Carmen”

[click “Play” to hlisten to Bunny Friedus-Steel speak about “Carmen”]

116 In one scene, the lovers are hitting high notes while coupling on the floor. Coming soon to your local theater in Telluride: Sex, rebellion, and violence.

Are we talking about the subject of the latest country & western hit or one of The Nugget’s nuggets, a Tinseltown bodice ripper starring the babe du jour. Answer: neither of the above. On January 22, 6 p.m., New York’s Metropolitan Opera, live in HD, is coming to Telluride’s Palm Theatre. And not just any opera, Bizet’s 1875 masterpiece “Carmen,” reputed to be the most famous opera in the world.

At the center of the libretto is Carmen, a stunning, manipulative, strong-willed Spanish gypsy and a siren, who leads men astray with beauty and dancing. Her lover Don Jose, is a possessive, weak-willed soldier, forced to leave his regiment for a crime he did not commit. Carmen’s reluctance to commit to Don Jose after his sacrifice, her two-timing ways with the dashing bullfighter, her declaration of independence, leads to the final tragedy.

Ok, you say, but who wants to watch some fat lady prancing around the stage pretending to be a seductress? That was then, this is now. Now Opera stars look the part: Latvian mezzo-soprano Elina Garanca is a sensuous blonde – in a curly black wig – who sings with a lustrous sound.

“Carmen” garnered raves from The New York Times. The critic described the production as “gripping,” lauding the acclaimed English director, Richard Eyre, for uncovering “the rawness and daring at the opera’s core.” “A white-knuckled edge-of-your-seat nail-biting ride,” Time Out New York. “Electrified…Remarkable,” The Wall Street Journal. “Striking…Powerful,” Associated Press.

Critics of the day: “Immoral” and “Low.”

If sex and sizzle, bravura voices and acting, ballet and fabulous sets, aren’t bait enough, how about the fact that Telluride is the first community on Colorado’s Western Slope to be granted the right to broadcast these Live HD performances? And it’s a privilege we could lose if we snooze.

Here’s the backstory on the broadcasts. In 2006, The Metropolitan Opera decided to expand its appeal and reach around the world by providing TV live performances to select theatres, an experiment and marketing coup that met with both popular and critical acclaim. During the 2008/2009 season, The Met: Live in HD series reached close to 1 million people around the world. To enhance the experience, The Met offers behind-the-scenes features, live interviews with cast and crew, insightful short documentaries, and bird’s eye views of the productions offer an unprecedented look at what goes into the staging of an opera.

Telluride’s Palm is in good company screening The Met: LIve in HD. Over 850 theatres in about 30 cities around the globe participate in the ongoing series, including Australia, the Netherlands, Austria, The Czech Republic, Belgium, UK, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Germany, France, Luxembourg, Poland and Japan. Recently Argentina, Costa Rica, Croatia, Estonia, Finland, Hungary, Ireland, Latvia, Mexico, New Zealand and South Africa got added to the list.

The January 22 encore performance of “Carmen” is a fundraiser for The Palm. The fundraiser – same price tickets as for other performances, but with a silent auction and dessert thrown in to enhance an already monumental event – was scheduled for the Elvis tribute, on December 30. But that was the night the lights went out.

To learn more, click the “play” button and listen to opera buff  Bunny Freidus Steel’s podcast.

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