San Francisco Opera Presents Georges Bizet's Carmen in Francesca Zambello Production Under Baton of James Gaffigan June 5–29

Release date: 5/1/2019    


Mezzo-Soprano J'Nai Bridges Makes Professional Role Debut as Carmen and Tenor Matthew Polenzani Takes on Don José for First Time

CARMEN.pdf  Photos Available

San Francisco Opera’s 2019 Summer Season opens with Georges Bizet’s Carmen June 5–29 at the War Memorial Opera House. Presented in American director Francesca Zambello’s acclaimed staging, which has been mounted by Opera Australia, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, and Norwegian National Opera, the opera features American mezzo-soprano J’Nai Bridges in her first professional performances of the title role and American tenor Matthew Polenzani assuming the role of Don José for the first time. Romanian soprano Anita Hartig makes her San Francisco Opera debut as Micaëla and American bass-baritone Kyle Ketelsen is the bullfighter, Escamillo. In his first opera engagement with the Company, conductor James Gaffigan leads the cast and San Francisco Opera Orchestra.

Carmen shocked audiences at its 1875 premiere in Paris, but the work’s music and realistic drama quickly won devotees. It is today one of opera’s most popular and enduring works. The work follows the free-spirited gypsy Carmen and her obsessive lover, Don José, as their relationship steers toward a tragic end. Bizet’s score is filled with unforgettable music, including Carmen’s entrance (“Habanera”), the Toreador’s bravura aria (“Votre toast”), Don José’s flower song (“La fleur que tu m’avais jetée”), Micaëla’s courageous soliloquy (“Je dis que rien ne m’épouvante”) and the orchestral preludes that open each of the opera’s four acts.

J’Nai Bridges made her San Francisco Opera debut in 2016 as Bersi in Andréa Chenier and the following year created the role of Josefa Segovia in the world premiere of John Adams’ Girls of the Golden West. Winning additional praise for performances with LA Opera, Dutch National Opera and the Bavarian State Opera, the American mezzo-soprano brings her “rich, dark, exciting sound” (Opera News) to Carmen in her professional role debut.

Returning to San Francisco Opera for the first time since his memorable performances in the title role of Offenbach’s Les Contes d’Hoffmann in 2013, tenor Matthew Polenzani takes on the wayward soldier, Don José. Romanian soprano Anita Hartig makes her Company debut as Micaëla, a role she has performed to great acclaim with the Metropolitan Opera and Vienna State Opera. Bass-baritone Kyle Ketelsen returns as the dashing bullfighter, Escamillo, which he recently performed at Madrid’s Teatro Real and the Met. Bass David Leigh bows for the first time with the Company as Zuniga, and current San Francisco Opera Adler Fellows soprano Natalie Image (Frasquita), mezzo-soprano Ashley Dixon (Mercédès), tenor Christopher Oglesby (El Dancairo), tenor Zhengyi Bai (El Remendado) and baritone SeokJong Baek (Moralès) complete the cast.

American conductor James Gaffigan, who led the San Francisco Opera Orchestra and Adler Fellows in The Future Is Now concert in 2017, returns for his first opera with the Company. Michelle Merrill will take to the podium for the June 20 performance of Bizet’s work in her Company debut; Gaffigan conducts the other six performances. Chorus Director Ian Robertson prepares the singers of the San Francisco Opera Chorus.

Sung in French with English supertitles, the seven performances of Carmen are scheduled for June 5 (7:30 p.m.), June 11 (7:30 p.m.), June 14 (7:30 p.m.), June 20 (7:30 p.m.), June 23 (2 p.m.), June 26 (7:30 p.m.) and June 29 (7:30 p.m.), 2019.

*For the complete press release, including full casting and calendar, please view the attached PDF.