In July 2011, the Marionettes Chorale premiered Bizet’s iconic opera CARMEN over two weekends at Queen’s Hall to sold out audience and rave audience and critical reviews. It featured featured two stellar international casts of award-winning Trinidadian singers, some of whom returned from work and study abroad to participate in this exciting event. It was also the first time the opera is performed with our national instrument, the steelpan.
The Marionettes was made possible through partners Dr. Vertrelle Mickens and Hayward Mickens of the University of Trinidad & Tobago (UTT); Noble Douglas and the Noble Douglas Dance Company (NDDCI); Bernadette Laughlin’s Love Movement’s Lights of Love; and an award-winning production team including Celia Wells, Margaret Sheppard, Randy Halfhide, Frank Agarrat, Leslie Clement, Maureen Clement, sponsors bpTT, and the Marionettes committee.
We have a YouTube playlist with all five performances with the two casts. You can pick your cast and your production company (Advance Dynamics recorded both casts; GISL and CTV recorded the opening weekend; and TCN the closing night)!
It seems everyone has heard of CARMEN: the “Habanera”, “Seguidilla”, the “Toreador Song”, Micaela’s aria and the “Flower Song” are among the best-known melodies of all time.
In 1874, Bizet described the opera to a friend as “a work full of colour and melody…It will be entertaining… I think you are going to like it…”
Carmen, the main character, is irresistible to men. She is sexy, unpredictable, funny and proud. This story of a love triangle and its consequences resonates in today’s society. The response to the first performance was far from ecstatic, but the opera rapidly gained popularity. Bizet himself died just three months after the opening, and never saw how his opera eventually triumphed.
The Marionettes has wanted to do a different complete opera or musical for some time. Licensing issues kept getting in the way of producing our first choice, but CARMEN seemed a viable choice, since just a few years ago the Chorale had given a concert performance of a substantial segment of the opera, accompanied by the Northern Sinfonia, conducted by Jessel Murray. And when Dr. Vertrelle Mickens of UTT offered to collaborate with us – three of her students, Ayrice, Llettesha, and Stephan would be involved – the choice seemed to be a good one.
The world of opera is not new to the Marionettes. We played a significant part in The Magic Flute and The Marriage of Figaro, produced by the Trinidad & Tobago Opera Society. Carmen seemed to offer an ideal opportunity for the Marionettes members, and the nation’s most talented performers, to show what they can do. The musical and dramatic challenges are numerous. But everyone has been unrelenting in their efforts to get it right.
It has been a thrill to share this labour of love with you.
– Gretta Taylor
Artistic Director & Conductor