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Recently, a small group of French students from Medford High School headed to the Theater District of Boston accompanied by their teachers Ms. Lina Smith and Ms. Marie Nyland. The happy troop was headed to the Boston Opera House to watch the final dress rehearsal of Carmen, a popular opera written by French composer Georges Bizet in 1875. This particular interpretation marked Spanish director Calixto Bieito’s long-awaited debut in the United States. After enjoying pasta and pizza at Teatro, a restaurant with dramatic vaulted ceilings…the perfect backdrop for such an outing…the group headed to the venue. Both students and teachers were delighted by the gorgeous old-world decor of the opera house, with gilded balconies, red velvet seats and dripping crystal chandeliers.

The show on the other hand was a modern interpretation of the classic story, with a minimal set and plain costumes. Jennifer Johnson Cano played a hard-nosed Carmen who seems to have the upper hand on Don Jose in earlier acts but eventually gets murdered by him in the last scene. She had a powerful and beautiful voice, and was supported by a cast of singers who were equally accomplished. The music was exotic and catchy and some of the students realized that they already knew some of the arias. It was thrilling to sit a few feet away from a live orchestra led by a world-class conductor and to be transported into a live show on what would have otherwise been just another school night.

The outing exposed students of the French program to one of the most beloved operas in the world and broadened their horizons and general culture. Most of all, it was fun and enriching for these young minds. Here are some of the students’ reactions in their own words:

Enzo De Palma – “The actors did not even have a microphone on them and their voices were really loud and wonderful. The story of Carmen can significantly relate to almost anyone, because most people have relationship problems. It’s also interesting that the operas keep the original languages such as French, Italian, German, and more. It keeps the actual tradition of the languages for decades. For my personal experience Carmen was a new and fun experience for me. It brought me back in time. I am just so used to watching TV or going outside to hang with friends or play sports. So attending the dress rehearsal of the Opera Carmen made me live and see art”.

Motina Pierre – “Overall, I thought the opera was amazing. I have never seen a live opera before so it was a new experience for me. My favorite character was the drunken guy who dressed in all white. I thought he was really funny which I think was his purpose in the musical. I thought that they lacked decorations in play. I felt like it was too simple. The acting was good and their voices were great, especially since they were singing live”.

Omayma Bentalha – “We spotted a fancy Italian restaurant that looked like it was shipped straight from Venice we could not resist, and so barged right in. We were seated immediately and served in no time. We ordered authentic pasta and three pizzas to satisfy our cravings. We were finally done at exactly six thirty and so preceded to Boston Opera House that was two minutes away. I couldn’t believe my eyes when we got there because the entire ceiling was covered in what appeared to be gold. The place itself looked like a palace that belonged to a monarch. We got seated and the lights slowly started fading, signaling the near beginning of the actual opera. The scenes unfolded before our eyes, and I personally got sucked into the plot. The characters’ voices were just so unbelievably on tune, to the point that it felt unreal. Although the play was a whole 3 hours and a half, it felt like mere seconds because of how interesting it all was. At the end, the actors received standing ovations from many in the room, and the clapping consumed the whole auditorium. Overall, this whole experience was one of a kind, and I would definitely recommend it for anyone”.

Claudiegh Decoline – “The Boston Opera House’s Production of Carmen was well executed and highly enjoyable. From the opening scene to the final scene, the performers had a way of being very captivating. The lead performer’s portrayal of Carmen as headstrong and uncontrollable as opposed to the usual conniving Carmen made a great impression on me. Her singing was absolutely stellar. The juxtaposition of classical material with modern scenery, costumes, and props added an interesting twist to the old classic. I thought having the young children was a bit of a cheap play for adoration”.

Mamie Powers – “Riding the T into the city and walking from the Downtown Crossing station through Boston added to the experience and to the excitement before the performance. As a group, we ate at an Italian restaurant before the show. The food was amazing and a great way to start off our night in Boston. We then made our way to the Boston Opera House. The beautiful decorations of the venue made the performance all the more beautiful. Though I could only make out a fraction of what the performers were singing during the songs, the story of the Opera was still beautiful. The performance we attended was a dress rehearsal, yet the vocal ranges of the performers were amazing”.    

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