For the first time in more than a decade, Long Island Opera is returning with live-staged opera productions in Nassau and Suffolk counties, beginning with a Sept. 15 performance of George Bizet's Carmen at Guild Hall in East Hampton. The two-hour production, which will start at 8 p.m., is a full-staged costumed performance with piano that will be led by Music Director Fabio Bezuti and star Long Island native Kara Cornell in the title role.
A mezzo-soprano, Cornell, who hails from Smithtown, has performed throughout the United States and abroad. She has sung leading roles with Union Avenue Opera in St. Louis, Opera Theater of Pittsburgh, St. Petersburg Opera in Florida, Center City Opera in Philadelphia, and, New York's Mosaic-Arts, Capital Opera, Northport Opera, Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts, Hubbard Hall, Stony Brook Opera, Musaic Concert Series and Metropolis Opera.
Cornell, who has played Carmen professionally before, is looking forward to playing the "sultry, sexy gypsy" in her first Long Island Opera production. "Not only am I looking forward to finally getting perform back on my own turf, but Carmen is one of my favorites," she said.
Carmen will also star tenor David Guzman as Don Jose; baritone Eric McKeever as Escamillo; bass Christian Zaremba as Zuniga; soprano Elise Brancheau as Micaela; baritone Robert Aaron Taylor as Moralès; soprano Margaret Meyer as Frasquita; and mezzo-soprano Elizabeth Pojanowski as Mercédès with baritone Thaddaeus Borne and tenor Donald Groves playing the part of the smugglers. Long Island Opera's singers hail the United States, Colombia, France, Italy, Mexico, Germany and Russia, and have performed with national and international opera companies including the Metropolitan Opera, Houston Opera, LA Opera, New York City Opera, and at various festivals throughout the United States.
"We are very excited about the talent we have this season," said Long Island Opera's Executive Director Joy Berta.
Long Island Opera, which incorporated as a 501(c)3 in 1961 and recently celebrated its 50th anniversary, is the oldest opera company in existence on Long Island.
In the beginning, Long Island Opera performed a handful of operas throughout Nassau County but by the mid-1980s its repertory had flourished and Long Island Opera acquired the props, sets and costumes, along with scores to over two-dozen operas and operettas. In August 2009, Berta, an opera singer herself joined the company as Executive Director with the ultimate goal of bringing captivating, high-quality, fully-staged operas back to Long Island.
Over the last four years, Berta has dedicated her time and talent to revive the company, promoting, organizing and producing performances throughout Nassau and Suffolk counties in an effort to bring opera back to Long Island.
"We want Long Islanders to share with us the wonderful experience of live opera performances right here on Long Island," said Berta adding, "We understand our audience is key to our success. It is their support, patronage, and enthusiasm that will help us thrive as Long Island's Opera company.
Long Island Opera's 2012-2013 season will also include performances of Giuseppe Verdi's Rigoletto on Oct. 6 and Giacomo Puccini's La Boheme, featuring the Children's Orchestra Society, on April 7, 2013 at Molloy College's Madison Theatre in Rockville Centre.
"Long Islanders don't have to travel to the city to experience great opera," Berta said. "We are bringing live opera performances to Long Island with an increased vitality and energy for Long Islanders to enjoy through this magnificent art form." She added, "With every performance, our goal is to captivate the audience; we tell the stories the great composers intend us to experience through their music."
Tickets for Carmen are $75 (limited VIP reserved seating and pre-show wine reception); $35 (orchestra); $25 (balcony) and $10-$15 (student). Contributors who make a $150 donation to Long Island Opera will receive two Supporter tickets to any one opera of the 2012-2013 season along, admission to the wine reception and an exquisite Italian opera print; for a $250 donation, contributors will receive two VIP tickets with above benefits plus preferred seating and backstage access.
To purchase tickets or make a donation, visit www.LongIslandOpera.org or call 631-772-9544. Contributions to Long Island Opera are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law. For additional information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
"Opera has a bright future here and we will continue to bring the world’s greatest operas to Long Island," said Berta. "All we need is an audience and we know there are a multitude of opera lovers on Long Island – some of them may not know it yet."
Cornell agreed, saying, "Long Island Opera is putting on productions that appeal to the masses. Why not come out and support your local arts program? Just give it a try?"