Arts & Humanities Campus News

UGA Opera Theatre presents interpretation of classic ‘Carmen’

Carmen (Xiaohan Chen, left) teases Don José (Minseol Hong, right) during a rehearsal for “The Tragedy of Carmen” at the Hugh Hodgson School of Music. (Photo by Shaun Baer)

The University of Georgia Opera Theatre presents “The Tragedy of Carmen,” an innovative reimagining of Georges Bizet’s rich and familiar opera adapted by Marius Constant, Jean-Claude Carriére and Peter Brook.

Originally conceived in the 1980s, the show premiered in Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord, Paris in November 1981.

“This interpretation goes back to the original novella for inspiration,” said Daniel Ellis, stage director and academic professional in opera and theatre for the Hugh Hodgson School of Music and the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences’ theatre and film department, “and creates a much more intimate and emotionally raw exploration of these familiar characters.”

The original novella was penned by Prosper Mérimée in 1845, which inspired Bizet’s opera 30 years later.

Ellis most recently directed “Elixir of Love” for the Minnesota Opera this past January, a production originally developed by him and the designers as paper project submitted to the OPERA America Robert L. B. Tobin Director Designer Prize. After receiving this award in 2021 and presenting it in 2022 at the Opera Conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Opera optioned the project for their 2023-24 season. This was a first in the 15-year history of the Tobin Award.

“We honestly just needed a way to be creative and express ourselves during the pandemic,” said Ellis, “we were so thrilled to be able to bring that concept to life.”

Joining Ellis at the helm of “The Tragedy of Carmen” is returning guest conductor Hilary Griffiths and UGA faculty member Kathryn Wright as opera coach. Graf Von Imoof, production manager at the UGA Performing Arts Center, will be designing the lighting.

“Hugh Hodgson Concert Hall is a perfect venue for this piece,” said Ellis. “The sound in that hall is perfection, and the intimacy that Graf can create with the lighting in that space really elevates the whole production.”

The cast features Xiaohan Chen, a Doctor of Musical Arts student, in the title role. Chen was most recently seen in the Atlanta Opera production of “The Anonymous Lover” last spring, as well as “Postcard from Morocco” and “Faust” with UGA Opera Theatre.

“The role of Carmen is highly appealing to mezzo-sopranos, and I am delighted to fulfill my dream during my final DMA semester at UGA,” said Chen. “The training I’ve received at UGA has equipped me to embrace this challenge, and I aspire to deliver a Carmen performance that is both liberated and bold to captivate the audience.”

The full cast includes DMA students Robert Harrelson as Escamillo and Master of Music student Minseol Hong as Don José. This production includes some spoken lines as well as arias and recitatives, so rounding out the cast are Master of Fine Arts student from the Department of Theatre and Film Studies Marta Sofia Ruiz Carrera as Lilla Pastia and recent Hugh Hodgson School of Music graduate Brooks Todd in the dual role of Zuniga and Garcia.

“This is my first time working on an opera,” said Carrera. “I’m very excited to contrast this process to my theatre experience. I’m looking forward to working with a new group of talented artists under Daniel’s direction.”

The role of Michaela will be sung by guest artist and UGA alumna Jaime Marie Webb (MM 2020), who was a Dr. Carl S. Hoveland Opera Fellow during her time at the School of Music. Webb recently made her Carnegie Hall debut.

“The Tragedy of Carmen” will run for only two performances, March 21 and 22, at 7:30 p.m. in Hodgson Concert Hall at the UGA Performing Arts Center, 230 River Road. Tickets are $20 for adults or $3 for students with a valid UGA ID. Tickets are available at or by calling the PAC box office at 706-542-4400.