In April, members of Boulder Opera led folks on a musical bar crawl through the Pearl Street Mall with stops at The Attic, Centro, License No. 1 and the West End Tavern. This month, the talented tribe is bringing an abbreviated and updated version of the classic French opera “Carmen” to Boulder’s Caffè Sole, for the first time, on Friday and Saturday.
“The role of Carmen is the dream role for many mezzos,” said Dianela Acosta, who will embody the fiery gypsy at this weekend’s shows. “It’s been in my repertoire for years and I feel lucky to have sung it many times.”
Lust-filled and intriguing, the popular opera dating back to 1875, written by Georges Bizet, is sure to pair nicely with a bottle of Cabernet, Chicken Confit and the Mediterranean olive plate that graces Sole’s menu.
“Carmen is passion, jealousy, betrayal and the ultimate femme fatale,” Acosta said. “Singing this role at an intimate venue like Caffè Sole is a treat because I can play the nuances that you wouldn’t be able to do for a bigger venue.”
If the steady popularity surrounding shows like NBC’s “Dateline,” proves anything, it’s that viewers love a juicy love triangle that ends fatally. Set in Spain, “Carmen” is really not all that different as it follows the story of naïve soldier Don José who abandons his military duties and leaves his childhood sweetheart for the ultimate temptress Carmen. Carmen then takes up with bullfighter Escamillo, a betrayal that drives José to murder her.
“She is truly a free spirit, who will always do what she pleases,regardless of the consequences,” Dianela said. “It’s so liberating as a singer/actress to play Carmen. It really allows me to push the limits on what’s appropriate or not. She flirts because she can and she wants to, and doesn’t care what anybody thinks of her. That’s a lesson there.”
In between the moments of pure drama, unrelenting obsession and comedic relief, audiences can take in the powerhouse songs that have made this story one of the most adored in the canon to date.
“The music has always been my draw to ‘Carmen,’” said Phoenix Gayles, stage director of “A Taste of Carmen.” “Even if you know nothing of opera, this music is recognizable as it is featured in mainstream society all the time — in commercials and movies and many other platforms. The story is deep and relatable, with some lightheartedness sprinkled throughout. Fun for the whole family.”
While the meat of “Carmen” remains intact, Gayles took creative freedom by reworking the classic.
“Because we are doing an adapted version of ‘Carmen,’ I have written new dialogue to change the way the story is told,” Gayles said. “Because of the intimate setting, the grandeur that is the full version of ‘Carmen’ would not have worked. This process was very fun and also challenging in all the best ways.”
It makes sense that Caffè Sole, a spot known for its rotating selection of jazz musicians, would host such a production. But, the art-filled coffee shop, in South Boulder’s Table Mesa Shopping Center, isn’t the only non-theater venue Boulder Opera would like to see its shows unfold.
“We would love to bring this and many other operas and shows to as many places as we can,” Gayles said. “Sharing this art with the world is the goal of any company, especially Boulder Opera. We want to make opera accessible to all generations and presenting in venues, such as this, makes that a reality.”
Acosta said: “‘Carmen’ is a timeless opera with a timeless story and it is so popular because of the many beautiful melodies that even if you don’t know opera you will know these melodies. It’s a true favorite for all our audiences. People come to see it again because they can’t get enough of it, and if they’ve never seen ‘Carmen,’ they fall in love with the opera.”
If you go
What: Boulder Opera’s “A Taste of Carmen”When: 7 p.m. Friday and SaturdayWhere: Caffè Sole, 637 S. Broadway, BoulderCost: $20 online, $25 at the doorMore info: boulderoperacompany.com/carmen-concert