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2008 Event Media Release - Carmen

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Issued 19 February 2008

OPERA ON THE BIG SCREEN - Opera Australia's Carmen set to seduce audiences across Australia

Opera Australia and the Australian Film Commission, today announced the first live transmission of an opera from Sydney Opera House to regional cinemas across Australia.

On the evening of Wednesday 12 March 2008, Opera Australia’s new production of Carmen will be transmitted via satellite from the Sydney Opera House Opera Theatre to eight regional cinemas that form the AFC’s Regional Digital Screen Network in Albany (WA), Devonport (TAS), Hervey Bay (QLD), Yarram (VIC), Katherine (NT), Port Augusta (SA), Wagga Wagga and Singleton (NSW) as well as to live sites on the Sydney Opera House Forecourt and at Federation Square, Melbourne.

Opera on the Big Screen will be screened free of charge to an audience of up to 7000 people, with 4000 on the Sydney Opera House steps, 1000 at Federation Square and over 2000 in cinemas across Australia.

Adrian Collette, Chief Executive of Opera Australia said, Following the success of Opera Australia’s inaugural live-site relay of La traviata to the Forecourt of the Sydney Opera House and to Federation Square in Melbourne, last March, we were keen to broaden the audience for this spectacular live event. Carmen is the ideal opera for first-timers and it is a great privilege to be able to present a relay of this wonderful production on screens throughout Australia. We are grateful to the Australian Film Commission for joining with us in presenting Carmen through its Regional Digital Screen Network.

He continued, This is another very significant step in ensuring that the work of the national opera company and our artists are enjoyed and seen by as many people as possible across Australia and overseas.

Carmen is Bizet's best-known opera, and one of the most popular operas of all time. It was first performed in 1875 and has been a central part of the operatic repertoire ever since. Part of its appeal is its salacious story, initially denounced by critics as immoral, and its vivid range of characters from Carmen, the passionate gypsy to Escamillo, the heroic bullfighter. But the main reason it has endured must be Bizet's evocative music, which includes a string of hit arias from Carmen's sexy Habanera, to the bravura of the Toreador's Song.

On Wednesday 12 March, Australian mezzo-soprano Catherine Carby, who won praise for her appearances as Carmen in Opera Australia's 2002 production, will sing the title role. She is joined by Rosario La Spina, who has been steadily building his repertoire of romantic tenor roles with Opera Australia, as the tragic Don José. His rival, the bullfighter Escamillo, is sung by the young Melbourne-born bass-baritone Joshua Bloom who is making his debut at The Metropolitan Opera, New York later this year. Soprano Tiffany Speight performs the role of Don José's sweetheart Micaela, with Shane Lowrencev as Zuniga, the lieutenant of Don José's guard. Moffatt Oxenbould Young Artists Amy Wilkinson and Sian Pendry are the gypsy’s Frasquita and Mercedes alongside Andrew Moran as the corporal Morales. Richard Hickox will conduct the performance.

This partnership between the AFC and Opera Australia expands the benefits of the AFC’s Regional Digital Screen Network from screening the latest Australian films to include broader cultural events. The AFC is excited to be at the forefront of this new cinema activity in Australia, said AFC Chief Executive Chris Fitchett.

Opera Australia’s new production of Carmen is directed by American Francesca Zambello, a world-renowned director of opera, theatre and television whose previous productions for Opera Australia include Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk in 2003 and The Love for Three Oranges in 2005.

She says of the production, I wanted to capture the heat, the cold of the mountains, the sense of the society, the range of the classes of the people, the gypsy girls versus the Spanish girls, and the sense of the elements – fire, water, wind, rain. I wanted to do a realistic Carmen.

Designed by Tanya McCallin and Paule Constable with choreography by Denni Sayers, this production of Carmen had its first staging in 2006 at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden and features live animals on stage including two horses, Drummer and Jamieson, a donkey and some chickens.

Damien Beaumont, presenter of ABC Classic FM, will host Opera on the Big Screen from the Sydney Opera House Forecourt.

ABC Classic FM is delighted to strengthen our partnership with Opera Australia in 2008 which already involves four live radio broadcasts of opera productions throughout the year, including Carmen from Melbourne on 26 April 2008, said Julia Lester, Acting Manager, Classic FM.

Carmen is currently in season at Sydney Opera House until 28 March 2008. It will open at the Arts Centre, Melbourne on 9 April 2008.

Presented by Opera Australia and the Australian Film Commission in association with ABC Classic FM, Sydney Opera House and Federation Square.

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