Kate Aldrich portrays the gypsy siren in Hawaii Opera Theatre’s production, which opens today
Look up the etymology of the name “Carmen” and you’ll find several definitions, from “song” (Latin) to “guard” (Hebrew) to “garden” (Spanish). But for the last 140 years or so, it’s really come to mean only one thing: George Bizet’s beloved opera, and the hotblooded, seductress for which it is named. Mezzo soprano Kate Aldrich, who portrays the gypsy siren in Hawaii Opera Theatre’s production opening today, thinks of Carmen as a modern woman. “She’s very independent,” Aldrich said. “She’s very secure in who she is, and she has no problem with allowing herself to be vulnerable, to be honest. That is very attractive to people.”
Bizet’s work has proven indisputably attractive to opera lovers. Despite being panned by critics at its 1875 premiere, “Carmen” is one of the most frequently performed operas in the world. Many of its individual tunes, from Carmen’s slinky Habanera in the first act to the powerful Toreador Song of act two, have entered into the cannon of classical music.
The story, meanwhile, has proven timely and true to life, embodying love, jealousy and drama. “‘Carmen,’ I think is very current,” said Aldrich, who has a sympathetic view of her character — comparing her to women who are victims
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of domestic violence in the present day, when men kill their partners over their desire to leave the relationship.
“It’s so often looked at as, ‘Carmen, this evil woman! She’s seducing these men and dropping them, and she made him do it. … It’s all Carmen’s fault.’ It’s not. That’s really an abusive mentality,” Aldrich said.
“CARMEN” TELLS the story of troubled soldier Don Jose, who is drawn to the gypsy Carmen. She falls in love with him, and also manipulates him to her own benefit at the same time.
It’s hardly a match made in heaven. Guest director Tara Faircloth calls them “the worst
Above, Kate Aldrich as Carmen falls in love with Don Jose, played by Kip Wilborn. Darren Stokes, left, stars as the bullfighter Escamillo, who competes for Carmen’s affection.