With the seeming wane of COVID-19 and ’cane season, arts institutions are bringing the momentous and innovative to Mobile audiences. After the last few troublesome months, it couldn’t be timelier.
Speaking of, Mobile Opera is making up for lost time. The 12th-oldest opera company in the nation planned to celebrate last year’s 75th anniversary but the pandemic squelched it. That means the company will celebrate its Diamond Jubilee now by bringing some of the world’s most popular operas to local audiences. It kicks off with Georges Bizet’s classic work “Carmen” Oct. 22 and 24 at The Temple Downtown (351 St. Francis St.).
Sadly, Bizet died mere months before “Carmen” debuted, so the composer never knew of his masterpiece’s impact. Its enduring popularity has translated into at least one performance most every week for the last century and a half. Bizet’s music is so catchy and memorable it has produced some of the most widely recognized tunes from the opera realm.
“We are looking forward to being back on stage with a full orchestra, beautiful sets and costumes and an excellent cast of singers,” Mobile Opera General Director Scott Wright said in an email. “We have had so much encouragement from the audience and artists alike who have missed that shared experience. This whole season is a return to opera in a big way and there is no better way to start than with ‘Carmen.’”
The namesake character is an alluring young Roma woman of Spanish origin who captures the attention of the soldier Don José. His crackling desire stirs José to forsake country and family. Carmen, though, has eyes for bullfighter Escamillo and a triangle of jealousy and despair has tragic results.
“This story resonates with people today because we all want to live a free life in some way. Maybe we want freedom from peril, anxiety, mediocrity or maybe just the mundane. The circumstances of Carmen’s life are certainly magnified but we understand her. We empathize and that draws us into the story — a story Bizet tells with unparalleled drama and beauty,” Wright said.
The cast members are headed to the Azalea City from across the nation. The titular role will be played by Stephanie Doche, a Nice, France, native who now lives in New York City. Don José’s duties fall on Peter Lake, a University of Mobile grad who now lives in Florida.
Escamillo actor Andre Chiang is from Mobile and went to the University of South Alabama. He now lives in Oklahoma.
Don José’s fiancée, Micaela, will be portrayed by Haley Cox, who got her master’s degree at the University of Mobile. Her last intended role was in “La Rondine,” a performance canceled by the pandemic.
The Oct. 22 show begins at 7:30 p.m. The Oct. 24 matinee is at 2:30 p.m.
Masks are required.
For tickets and information, call 251-432-6772 or go to mobileopera.org.
The Mobile Symphony Orchestra (MSO) is taking a step away from the usual by combining its spectacular ensemble with the composition efforts of some of Nashville’s most accomplished songwriters. The Music City Hit-Makers show, Oct. 14 at 7:30 p.m., will feature Hillary Lindsey, Corey Barlowe and Brett James presenting the stories behind their work and renditions reimagined for a symphony. The trio of award-winning, chart-topping composers have written songs recorded by Carrie Underwood, Taylor Swift, Faith Hill, Tim McGraw, Lady A, Sara Evans, Martina McBride, Little Big Town, Rascal Flatts, Dierks Bentley, Kenny Chesney and Jason Aldean.
The idea came from 2019’s League of American Orchestras conference in Nashville. A contingent from MSO was there and attended a free event at a local winery featuring some of the same artists and a small orchestra.
“It was just a great show and we thought it might sell in Mobile,” MSO Executive Director Celia Mann Baehr said of an event that was as humorous as it was moving.
When she reached out to MSO Music Director Scott Speck, he mentioned something similar he executed with the West Michigan Symphony Orchestra. Speck still serves as music director for West Michigan Symphony Orchestra, in addition to filling the same position for the Joffrey Ballet and Mobile Symphony Orchestra.
“He said they were easy to work with and they had a great time,” Baehr said.
The show was originally penciled in for October 2020. The pandemic ended those plans.
Cut to present day. A vaccine enters stage left and the Delta variant ebbs, so erect the acoustic shell for the Saenger Theatre (6 S. Joachim St.) and bring on the 65-piece orchestra. It’s showtime again.
Socially distanced seating isn’t required but can be made available. Masks covering the nose and mouth are required.
For tickets and information, call 251-432-2010 or go to mobilesymphony.org.
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