Asst Artistic Director Michael Davis Delves Into Carmen

I know what you must be thinking:  Indianapolis Symphonic Choir doing Carmen?  That’s opera, not oratorio.  Since when did they become an opera chorus?

And what’s all of this ‘semi-staged’ business?  Are they singing on the flatbed of a tractor-trailer parked in rural Indiana winery in their house-shoes?

So the quick answer is:  We aren’t talking about one of my (or our Executive Director Michael Pettry’s) favorite pastimes of attending local wine festivals; and, we only wear our sweatpants and house-shoes when we sing Holst’s The Planets…but those are entirely different topics for another blog down the road!

As far as Carmen is concerned, this is a very new type of production experience for the Symphonic Choir, despite the fact we will be donning our traditional concert attire for much of the evening.

For starters, we handcrafted a small chamber chorus of 40 from our full roster of 200+ singers.  And the amazing thing is, our audience will still hear what they’ve come to recognize as the signature “Symphonic Choir sound.”

Not only is the choir smaller, but they will not be sitting in a stationary block on the center of the stage in their usual place.  They will actually be a part of the action!

A little handkerchief choreography


A little handkerchief choreography for our singers at last Saturday's staging rehearsal, one week before Carmen's opening night.


The rehearsal and preparation has been very different, and more extensive as well.

The Symphonic Choir typically spends every evening together leading up to a performance with just the orchestra, its just what we do.  But for this performance, there have been two full weeks of evening rehearsals which included Sunday night language vigils, all-day sessions on Saturdays, French language coaches, production managers, opera directors, costumes, props, a huge ensemble of first rate vocal soloists….plus Maestro Urbanski, ISO, the Indianapolis Children’s Choir and white handkerchiefs!

That’s right….this is an all out production folks and it will be very exciting, entertaining, and beautiful!  You’ll be on the edge of your seat!

This production has been a tremendous growth and learning opportunity for the Symphonic Choir and we are thrilled to be a part of it.  Carmen certainly utilizes all of the musical elements of the choral-orchestral masterworks which are our mission to perform, but it also supports our mission of providing life-long education opportunities for adults – – in this instance, for our singers.  This production has uniquely allowed us to take a deep dive into the French language; learn to be creative and expressive in our physical movements in addition to our voice; work with a professional opera production team; perform along side an inspiring cast of world-class singers….the list goes on.

Altos from the semi-staged production of Carmen sneak in a few extra hours of rehearsal for the big season finale.


Altos from the semi-staged production of Carmen sneak in a few extra hours of rehearsal for the big season finale.


So while Carmen might not be a part of the Symphonic Choir's usual concert repertoire, all of the work, energy, time, and care that has gone into this production has been well worth it.   A comment we received from one of our singers said it all:  “I’ve always dreamed of singing in an opera.  Thanks for making it come true.”  They must really feel that way, because they gave up their only night off together working together for 3 hours!

Once you take a glance at the impressive cast of performers for this well-loved, sultry tale of passion and obsession (by clicking here), I know you’ll not want to miss it! The title role will be performed by Metropolitan Opera mezzo-soprano Oksana Volkova, and directed by MICHAŁ ZNANIECKI who utilizes a silent-movie era inspired approach to pay homage to Hilbert Circle Theatre’s 100 year history.

See you at the show!
Dr. Michael Davis
Assistant Artistic Director

The Indianapolis Symphonic Choir joins the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra for two semi-staged performances of Bizet's Carmen on Friday and Sunday, June 10 and 12, 2016 at Hilbert Circle Theatre. For more information and tickets, click here.