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COME ONE, COME ALL: Opera Wilmington’s ‘Carmen’ comes to stage as part of Lumina Fest

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One of North America’s most popular operas, Georges Bizet’s “Carmen,” will be presented by Opera Wilmington (OW) on the main stage of UNCW’s Cultural Arts Building. “Carmen” performances bookend the Lumina Festival of the Arts, which also features theatre, dance, film, and visual art—all under the auspices of UNCW’s Office of the Arts, which is directed by former Spoleto intern Kristen Brogdon. The exciting production, co-directed by Nancy King and Frank Trimble, consists of a cast that includes professionals, UNCW students, and a chorus of 12 children, ages 10 to 16.

carmen“This month we held our first two-week music camp for kids and it was great,” King says, who is UNCW’s coordinator of vocal performance. “The children created their own characters for ‘Carmen,’ designed costumes and even helped sew simple aprons or vests. The production crew invited these young people to paint the set, and helped with the whole effort.”

In its fourth year, OW is now the official opera company-in-residence at UNCW. Since the campus is quieter in the summer, Brogdon put her head together with OW’s president, Jenny Callison, about drawing more tourists to the university. They consulted with OW’s artistic director, also Nancy King, set designer Max Lydy, and costume designer Mark Sorensen (all UNCW staff) about creating an artistic celebration. Thus, the Lumina Festival of the Arts was born.

“Our aim is to dispel the elitist myth of opera,” King explains. “The plot for ‘Carmen’ appeals to everyone. It has dancing, fun, mayhem, and murder—all universal themes. Snippets of its arias (think, ‘Toreador!’) are played on TV everyday. If you’re going to get your feet wet with opera, ‘Carmen’ is the one!”

As an educator, King wants the whole community, as well as tourists, to feel invited. They especially want to connect with folks of all ages who haven’t been exposed to opera. “We just spent two weeks with the children’s chorus, and they were thoroughly entertained!” she says.

The “Carmen” performance for Friday, July 28, is also billed “family night” with discount tickets for families of four. On site will be a Poor Piggy’s BBQ food truck starting at 5:30 p.m., and beer will be sold. Productions begin at 7 p.m.

OW’s Callison, King and board brainstormed two different ideas around the small but inviting role of Lillas Pastia, the barkeep in Act 2. First, several bartenders were invited to concoct a recipe for sangria, and opera lovers tasted each one and voted on their favorite. There was a tie between Caprice Bistro’s Darren Mulvenna for his East Coast Sangria (a spicy red wine), and Platypus and Gnome’s Jake Sullivan for Bel Canto Blanc (a sweet white). In addition to delicious Spanish theme cuisine, these wines will be served at the opening gala, July 21st at 5:30 p.m in the Watson School of Education lobby next to the Cultural Arts Building. Mulvenna and Sullivan will be present to answer questions.

Second, several businesses and nonprofits were asked to sponsor one of their executives to play the cameo role of Pastia. Again, there was a tie—between Cape Fear Literacy Council’s board president Craig Snow and Cape Fear Clinic’s executive director and 2014 Healthcare Hero nominee John Devaney. Unfortunately, Devaney has bowed out due to sudden family health concerns, and Bo Dean, another community leader and volunteer, will take his place. Therefore, Snow will play the bartender in the first two productions, and Dean will perform in the last two.   

Conductor Joe Hickman, along with cast members Liz McKay Field (playing “good girl” Micaela) and Dr. Michael Rallis (playing Don Jose, who “kills the bad girl”), all agree the production value of “Carmen” is first class.

Chelsea Keane Holmes plays the free-spirited Carmen. Although she’s played violin and sung since she was 5 years old, and now teaches music at Lumberton Junior High, the character of Carmen is her first starring role. Holmes concurs with Rallis that all aspects of the production, including cast, music, set, costumes, and directing function at a very high level. “Working with such a professional cast and crew is a great honor—it’s phenomenal!” she says.

Folks can see and hear for themselves on July 21, 23, 28, and 30. For tickets and more information, call 910-962-3500, or go to

July 21 and 28, 7 p.m.
July 23 and 30, 3 p.m.
UNCW’s Cultural Arts Building, Main Stage • 601 S. College Rd.
Tickets: $20-$50

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Encore Magazine regularly covers topics pertaining to news, arts, entertainment, food, and city life in Wilmington. It also maintains schedules and listings of local events like concerts, festivals, live performance art and think-tank events. Encore Magazine is an entity of H&P Media, which also powers Wilmington’s local ticketing platform, Print and online editions are updated every Wednesday.

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