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Opera Philadelphia Wraps its 2017-2018 Season at the Academy of Music with a New Production of Bizet’s Carmen

On the heels of its tremendously successful twelve-day immersive O17 festival last fall, as well as a stunning production of George Benjamin’s phenomenal critical sensation Written on Skin earlier this spring, Opera Philadelphia closes out its season with one of the world’s most popular operas, Bizet’s masterpiece, Carmen. In the title role is mezzo-soprano Daniela Mack, who opened Opera Philadelphia’s 2017-2018 season with a “vocally formidable” (Philadelphia Inquirer) and “brilliant” performance (Opera News) in the title role of the world premiere of Elizabeth Cree. Directed by Paul Curran, who led 2015’s acclaimed La traviata, this new production of Carmen will enliven the Academy of Music for five performances, April 27-May 6.

David B. Devan, General Director & President of Opera Philadelphia, said of the opera’s enduring appeal:

Carmen is among the world’s most popular operas for so many reasons, beginning, of course, with Bizet’s intoxicating score. It’s a masterpiece filled with unforgettable characters, edge-of-your-seat drama, and thrilling dance. Paul Curran’s production and Gary McCann’s designs bring freshness to the opera while also honoring all that is great about this beloved masterwork. I cannot think of a better way to close the 2017-2018 season at the Academy of Music and to prepare our loyal audience for a 2018-2019 season that presents three beloved classics at the Academy.”

Carmen is an unforgettable story of runaway passions and dire consequences. Everyone is drawn to Carmen, an irresistible Spanish gypsy – except Corporal Don José. But even he soon succumbs to her seduction, fleeing a life in the military to join the gypsy world. When the famous bullfighter Escamillo begins to win her affection, however, a dangerous love triangle grows. Micaëla, Don José’s hometown sweetheart, attempts to wrest him from Carmen’s grasp, but to no avail – fate has already dealt its hand.

Director Paul Curran, whose production is set in the late 1950s in a non-specific locale reminiscent of Havana, Miami, or even Seville, commented:

“Carmen has become such a beloved and enduring opera because of its great tunes, great story, and fascinating characters. The musical numbers have been incorporated into every area of life since the 1875 premiere – from gondoliers on canals to advertisements for pretty much anything, and also dozens of pop tunes. That has to say something for its impact and staying power. Plus, Carmen is a story all of us can relate to: An outsider to society against whom circumstance is working harshly but who does everything in her power to build herself a better life.”

Heading a stellar cast is Daniela Mack – a finalist for the 2013 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Competition, with “a voice like polished onyx: strong, dark, deep and gleaming” (Opera News) – as the iconic Carmen. Recent Curtis Institute of Music graduate Evan LeRoy Johnson brings his “fervent tenor” (Philadelphia Magazine) to the role of Don José, alongside baritone Adrian Timpau, in his company debut, lending his “dramatic and stylistic authority” (Opera News) to the role of the bullfighter, Escamillo. Soprano Kirsten MacKinnon, who impressed Opera UK with her “poise, expressive singing and excellent vocalism,” sings the role of Micaëla. Johnathan McCullough, “a baritone of solid accomplishment” (Opera Today) who performed multiple roles in Elizabeth Cree, returns as Moralès, with South African bass-baritone Musa Ngqungwana, praised by the New York Times for his “rich, glowing voice and elegant legato,” as Zuniga. Curtis soprano Emily Pogorelc, winner of the Ginette Theano prize for most promising talent at the 2018 Glyndebourne Opera Cup, sings the role of Frasquita, with Opera Philadelphia Emerging Artist Anastasiia Sidorova as Mercédès. Daniel Taylor (Le Remendado) and Doğukan Kuran (Le Dancaïre) round out the cast, led by director Paul Curran and conductor Yves Abel in his company debut leading the Opera Philadelphia Orchestra.

The launch of Opera Philadelphia’s new, game-changing, annual season-opening festival last fall was a resounding critical and popular success. The festival’s twelve-day inaugural edition – O17 – featured seven operatic happenings, three world premieres, and superstar soprano Sondra Radvanovsky as Festival Artist, at six venues across the city. It was nominated for Best Festival at the International Opera Awards, and one of the world premieres, David Hertzberg’s Wake World, won the MCANA Award for Best New Opera, marking the second year in a row an Opera Philadelphia production has won that award. The company received its first MCANA Award the previous year with the world premiere of Breaking the Waves, a co-commission with Beth Morrison Projects; composer Missy Mazzoli and librettist Royce Vavrek were both honored.  As the Washington Post summed up Opera Philadelphia’s achievement:

“The company is striking a huge blow for the idea that arts organizations do better to add new, exciting things than to tread with financial caution. The festival is one of the most enjoyable additions to the fall calendar in years; it’s attracting opera fans from all over; and … I’m happy to report that Philadelphia is doing it absolutely right. … It’s put together a festival that reflects its city. … This is what happens with a strong vision and good, thoughtful planning. … It may become a key part of the season for everyone.”

Still to come this spring is a collaboration between Opera Philadelphia and Curtis Opera Theatre, which presents a double bill of Kurt Weill’s cynical utopian vision Mahagonny: Ein Songspiel – the work that launched the composer’s collaboration with Bertolt Brecht – paired with Gian Carlo Menotti’s The Medium at the Perelman Theater in the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts (May 3-6). Carlos Ágreda conducts members of the Curtis Symphony Orchestra, and Emma Griffin directs.

Click here to download high-resolution photos.

About Opera Philadelphia

Opera Philadelphia is committed to embracing innovation and developing opera for the 21st century. Described as “the very model of a modern opera company” by the Washington Post, Opera Philadelphia’s annual fall festival, O, was a finalist for the 2018 International Opera Award for Best Festival. The company’s second fall festival, O18, will take place September 20-30, 2018, launching a 2018-2019 season of ten operatic events. For more information, visit



Music by Georges Bizet; libretto by Ludovic Halévy and Henri Meilhac
April 27, 29m, May 2, 4, 6m, 2018
Academy of Music

Performed in French with English Supertitles

Carmen: Daniela Mack
Don José: Evan LeRoy Johnson*
Escamillo: Adrian Timpau*
Micaëla: Kirsten MacKinnon
Moralès: Johnathan McCullough
Zuniga: Musa Ngqungwana
Frasquita: Emily Pogorelc
Mercédès: Anastasiia Sidorova
Le Remendado: Daniel Taylor
Le Dancaïre: Doğukan Kuran*

Conductor: Yves Abel*
Director: Paul Curran
Set & Costume Design: Gary McCann
Lighting Design: Paul Hackenmueller
Wig & Make-up Design: David Zimmerman
Choreographer & Assistant Director: Seth Hoff
Chorus Master: Elizabeth Braden
Stage Manager: Lisa Anderson

*Opera Philadelphia debut


Media Contacts

Opera Philadelphia: Frank Luzi, [email protected], (215) 893-5902
21C Media Group: Glenn Petry, [email protected], (212) 625-2038


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© 21C Media Group, April 2018

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