Live Opera Returns to Salt Lake City with Utah Opera’s Production of “La tragédie de Carmen”

Utah Opera premiere of Peter Brook’s 90-minute adaptation of Bizet’s opera “Carmen.”

Kirstin Chávez sings the role Carmen with Isaac Hurtado as Don José and Efraín Solís as Escamillo in a production directed by Omer Ben Seadia and conducted by Ari Pelto.

Five performances from May 8 through May 16 at the Janet Quinney Lawson Capitol Theatre mark the first Utah Opera performances for a live audience since October 2020.


SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (April 28, 2021) – Audiences are invited to experience live opera once again when Utah Opera produces Peter Brook’s “La tragédie de Carmen” at the Janet Quinney Lawson Capitol Theatre in downtown Salt Lake City. The five performances take place from Saturday, May 8, 2021 through Sunday, May 16, 2021 and will be the first Utah Opera performances staged for a live audience since October 2020.

“I’ve always been attracted to the Brook adaptation of Bizet’s famous opera,” said Christopher McBeth, Utah Opera’s Artistic Director. “It takes a story and music with which most of us are familiar and re-examines the characters, the themes and the music in a way that not only is respectful to the original upon which it is based but also gives us a new perspective. The piece is compelling in its focus and powerful in its distillation. It gives everyone involved that feeling of freshness and discovery, no matter how much experience we may have with ‘Carmen.'”

Omer Ben Seadia directs Utah Opera’s production, which is set in present-day New York City’s Spanish Harlem neighborhood, with projections and lighting designed by Tláloc López-Watermann and costumes designed by Verona Green. The opera will be performed in French with English supertitles projected above the stage.

“La tragédie de Carmen” focuses on the intense relationships between the story’s main characters. Mezzo-soprano Kirstin Chávez, called “the Carmen of a lifetime” for her “dark, generous mezzo, earthy eroticism, volcanic spontaneity and smoldering charisma” (Opera News), is the beguiling Carmen who sings the famous “Habanera” aria. Tenor Isaac Hurtado makes his Utah Opera debut in the role of Don José, an officer who has his eyes set on Carmen. In addition to being accomplished performers, Chávez is Artist in Residence and Associate Professor of Voice at the University of Utah and Hurtado is Director of Opera and Assistant Professor of Voice at Utah Valley University. Baritone Efraín Solís, praised for his “theatrical charisma and musical bravado” (The San Francisco Chronicle) plays Escamillo, Don José’s competition for Carmen’s affection.

Utah Opera’s four Resident Artists round out the cast with soprano Julia Gershkoff singing the role of Micaëla, Don José’s childhood sweetheart. Brandon Bell plays Zuniga (Don José’s superior officer) and Garcia (Carmen’s husband), Daniel O’Hearn plays the club owner Lillas Pastia and Edith Grossman plays Fate, the irresistible force with which Carmen and Don José must contend.

Conductor Ari Pelto returns to lead the cast of four singers and a Utah Symphony chamber orchestra featuring 15 musicians. As in the company’s October production, the orchestra performs on stage rather than in the orchestra pit and is distanced behind a scrim that also serves as a projection surface. Per recommendation from an airflow study done in partnership with the University of Utah, a plenum box has been constructed to pull air from the stage out the doors of the theatre to quickly remove aerosols produced by wind and brass instruments.

Peter Brook’s “La tragédie de Carmen” premiered in 1981 as a collaboration with Academy Award-winning writer Jean-Claude Carrière and composer Marius Constant. An adaptation of Bizet’s opera “Carmen,” “La tragédie” runs just 90 minutes with no intermission (a typical production of “Carmen” runs more than three hours) with no chorus but features much of the familiar music that makes Bizet’s “Carmen” one of opera’s major box-office draws.


Tickets may be purchased using the new Utah Symphony | Utah Opera mobile app, available free for iPhone and Android. Tickets may also be purchased online at https://utahopera.org/, by calling USUO Patron Services at 801-533-NOTE (6683) or through ArtTix.org. Discounts to select performances are available for students and subscribers. In-person assistance is not available at this time. For Ticket Office hours and the most up-to-date information, please visit https://usuo.org/.

In accordance with Utah’s State Public Health Order, masks, covering the nose and mouth, are required for all attendees during the performance and while in the venue. Patrons are required to confirm they are not subject to any isolation or quarantine requirement and are not experiencing any Covid-19 symptoms on the day of the performance.

Salt Lake County Arts & Culture recently announced that venues could operate at increased capacity beginning May 1, 2021. Utah Opera will operate at around 30% capacity (approximately 500 seats) for this production.


Peter Brook’s “La tragédie de Carmen”
May 8 & 14, 2021 | 7:30 PM
May 10 & 12, 2021 | 7 PM
May 16, 2021 | 2 PM

Janet Quinney Lawson Capitol Theatre (50 W 200 S, Salt Lake City, Utah)

Runtime: Approximately 90 minutes with no intermission

Adapted from Georges Bizet’s opera by Marius Constant, Jean-Claude Carrière, and Peter Brook

Brief Synopsis

The young officer Don José gets in over his head when he catches the eye of the beguiling Carmen. After aiding her escape from the law, Don José is jailed, demoted and kills his superior Zuniga before running off with Carmen. Meanwhile, Don José’s childhood sweetheart Micaëla searches for him as he confronts the other men in Carmen’s life: Escamillo and her husband, Garcia.

Sung in French with English supertitles projected above the stage.