Carmen and I have spent the last two months together. Interesting, since she never stays in one relationship that long… I started rehearsals as the cover in the French Carmen and continued with Carmen for Families. I am Israeli, playing a Spanish Gypsy, in a French opera, sung in English. Confused? Me too!
This has been one of the craziest most interesting relationships I've ever had with a character. But it's not surprising; you wouldn't expect anything else from Carmen, would you? After only few days of rehearsals, as I was examining the multiple bruises on my body, it was clear to me that we are a very good match! And as the rehearsal process progressed, I discovered we have much more in common than I initially thought… and yet, it was her qualities that I don’t possess that I enjoyed exploring the most. [Right: Maya Lahyani as Carmen in her dressing room before Act I]
So who is she?
"A Gypsy child who has no law, and who must be forever free as air…" She is wild, passionate, smart, uncompromising, strong, proud, honest, confident, physical, playful, tough, and yet very feminine… she knows who she is, what she wants, and how to get it!
Putting her on, I felt very liberated and free. However, I realized there is something very exhausting in constantly trying to break free from anything that might bind you. Isn't she actually trapped in her own idea of 'freedom'? [Left: Maya singing a selection from Carmen at the 2010 Adler Fellows Gala Concert. Photo by Cory Weaver]
She is also one of the most physically demanding roles I've played. I run, dance, jump on and off a table, lay down; I’m grabbed, thrown, shoved down the stairs and stabbed… all while singing! Yes, just another day at the opera.
She keeps growing and changing every time I put her on, and I know she will continue to do that. It's exciting that it’s only the beginning for me and her.
I feel so very lucky, blessed, and grateful to try her on for the first time at San Francisco Opera, a place that has been my home for the last two years. It’s been a joy surrounded by the incredible SFO family of stage hands, props, stage management, wardrobe, wigs and makeup, music staff, chorus, and orchestra. Sunday's performance was incredibly moving and exciting for me! [Right: Maya singing a selection from Carmen at the 2009 Merola Grand Finale Concert. Photo by Kristen Loken]
As an Adler, I've sung 12 different roles in eight different operas during the last two seasons. The title role of Carmen is a huge sing (no pressure right?) and I am proud to finish my Adler fellowship with her and truly I hope we meet again soon!
[Left: Maya Lahyani as Carmen with Brian Jagde as Don Jose in Carmen for Families. Photo by D. Ross Cameron]