Denyce Greaves Directs Bizet’s “Carmen” with the Minnesota Opera

1 May 2022

Soprano Denyce Greaves directs Minnesota Opera’s rendition of Bizet’s Carmen, now showing at the Ordway Music Theatre, Minnesota. The production also stars Maya Lahyani and Zoie Reams as the title role in alternating casts. Carmen at the Ordway marks a homecoming return for Denyce, who starred as the title role with the Minnesota Opera in 1991.

Rob Hubbard from Star Tribune writes, “There’s an old adage in sports that great players don’t necessarily make great coaches. Leading a team is a gift all its own. But after seeing Minnesota Opera’s “Carmen,” I can assure you that star soprano Denyce Graves has that gift…It’s the most creative, colorful and meticulously crafted “Carmen” among the several I’ve experienced. Bursting with imagination, it’s full of supremely strong singing, deeply involving portrayals, terrific dance interludes…The acting was deeply engaged, and not just among the 10 most prominent singing roles. Everyone behaved as if they had a story to tell…As for the story of Carmen…portrayed by Maya Lahyani…each aria and duet was sung with power, clarity and subtlety…Few instrumental interludes in this production aren’t accompanied by some visually splendid movement that drives the story forward…A key element in this staging is the distinct identity of the Roma people to whom Carmen belongs. It clearly enriches the vivid characterizations. The chorus is excellent throughout, and I suspect Graves helped each member feel that they had something important to contribute. Just as a good coach should.”

Sheila Regan from Twin Cities writes, “Infused in the music are elements of Spanish folk melodies and flamenco rhythms, which Bizet uses to establish Carmen’s “otherness” as a Romani woman. Rather than minimize the cultural appropriation of Bizet’s music, stage director Denyce Graves leans into the Romani aspect of the plot, highlighting the oppressed group’s humanity by showing their deep sense of community… Carmen, played on opening night by Maya Lahyani…equipped with her intelligence, strength and sexuality…Carmen just wants the freedom to love how she loves and who she loves, for as long as that love lasts. Lahyani’s performance, with her throaty sound and slightly gawky yet fierce sensuality, makes a strong case for why that should be OK.”

Carmen will show at the Ordway Music Theater until 22 May. More information and tickets can be found here.