A Celebration of All Things Cultural, Artistic, and Entertaining in Madison
Nov 4, 2009
02:34 PM

Blogging All About It: Madison Opera's "Carmen"

Blogging All About It: Madison Opera's "Carmen"

SATURAY, NOVEMBER 7, 12:11 a.m.

The opera's over and audience members are probably getting home about now. I hope they had as good of time as I did. I wonder what the other bloggers thought. I'll have to check their posts later.

Thanks to Madison Opera for conducting this live blogging experiment. I'd gladly participate again anytime!

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 6, 10:06 p.m.

I ran out of time during the last intermission, so I'll have to keep this brief. But I must say, I'm surprised by how vibrant, physical and sensual this production has been. And I mean that in a good way. This has been different from any other opera I've seen.

When I interviewed director and choreographer Candace Evans a few weeks back for a story for our November issue, she mentioned how she works with opera singers on their physicality and teaches them to show what they're singing without the audience having to read the supertitles. This approach seems to be paying off and it's really a delight to watch.

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 6, 9:03 p.m.

It's the first intermission and the bloggers are typing away rapidly on their laptops. What a performance this has been so far -- so lively and colorful.

I found myself drawn into the story right away. While Don Jose, one of the main characters of the opera, is fairly still, quiet and obedient, a rowdy world in Seville, Spain, swirls around him.

I liked the visual contrast between the soldiers, including Don Jose, in their sunflower gold jackets and the townspeople, whose clothes were as sun-bleached as the building walls of the setting. Like the soldiers, Carmen stood out from everyone else. While other woman working in the cigarette factory looked somewhat dull, she shined in a bright white top and raven hair. The soldiers weren't the only ones captivated by her. I don't know how anyone in the audience could keep their eyes off her languid movements and sultry singing.

Oh, the bells are chiming and it's time to get back in the theater. Off to see what Carmen does next.

I don't think I've ever had this much fun at the opera!

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 6, 7:18 p.m.

Well, here I am in a lobby of the gorgeous Overture Center, live blogging with other arts lovers at the opening night of Madison Opera's production of Carmen.

Tonight brings the first opera of the season, and as this evening approached, I looked forward to observing audience members as they walked in. I wanted to pick up on their energy and their excitement about what they were about to see, hear and experience inside the theater. I wanted to see the looks on their faces and notice the clothes they decided to wear for the occasion. I wanted to eavesdrop on the conversations they would have before it was time to take their seats.

There's just so much to take in at a performing arts event. Whether you're an opera buff or a newcomer to the art form, there's no limit to the number and types of experiences you can have. I wish I could find out what brought each person here -- and ask them later what coming to the opera has been like for them, what they liked best about Carmen.

Tonight's performance is sold out, and I think that's really cool. I've often thought about how great it would be if an arts event created as much anticipation and brought out as many die-hard fans as the sporting events that help create our city's reputation. So it's fun not only to watch what's happening tonight, but also to be a part of it.

Right now, as opera-goers fill this room, we bloggers are receiving curious glances. Some people are coming up to say hello or ask us what we're doing. But now as I type these words, attention is shifting to two flamenco dancers that have begun performing on a stage. How festive this feels! And the opera hasn't even started yet.

Stay tuned for more. We'll be blogging again at intermissions around 9 and 10 p.m. and after the performance concludes.


Opera is riddled with stereotypes. Shrieking ladies, velvet dresses, helmets with horns. Even if you don’t buy in to these clichés, your regard for the art form may still be wrapped in the context of tradition, history and the idea that opera should be appreciated the way it’s always been appreciated.

So it’s interesting—and exciting, in my opinion—that Madison Opera has taken contemporary approaches toward presenting opera and connecting with audiences.

First, the MadOpera Blog started in September 2008. Then came the Madison Opera Facebook page, a YouTube channel and a Twitter account.

And a few weeks ago, Brian Hinrichs, Madison Opera’s manager of communications and community outreach, emailed asking me to participate in the first Blogger Night at the Opera. The organization has invited local bloggers to attend opening night of Carmen on November 6 and write posts before the show, during intermission and afterward.

“Our goal here is to bring fresh voices into the conversation about opera, and it is perfectly okay if our bloggers do not have familiarity with Carmen or other operas,” Hinrichs wrote in the email. “We want to foster discovery—for our bloggers and their readers—of an art form we passionately believe in.”

Vancouver Opera and Portland Opera have both held blogger nights. Certainly such events are great ways to increase publicity about a production. But the broader implications appeal to me.

I think it’s important to have many voices talking about the arts. We’re lucky to live in a city with arts coverage by a variety of media: The Wisconsin State Journal and The Capital Times in 77 Square, Isthmus, student newspapers and, of course, blogs. Lindsay Christians of 77 Square recently wrote a fantastic piece on this topic on her blog.

I also believe strongly in conveying the message that the arts are for everyone. One needn’t be an expert—or even know whether he or she likes the particular art form—to experience or appreciate a painting or a song or an opera.

Perhaps what’s most intriguing about Blogger Night at the Opera is that this idea of inclusion is extended not just to the wide range of people watching the production, but also the wide range of people writing about it. This may change the type of information, style and level of authority readers get, as the blog posts won’t be traditional critical reviews. But it will be interesting to see whether readers miss the old way or whether they favor this new approach in conjunction with it.

The bloggers participating on Friday are Jacob Stockinger, the venerable Madison arts writer who now maintains The Well-Tempered Ear; Maddie Greene of the collaborative Dane101.com; Emily Mills of The Lost Albatross, who also now blogs for Isthmus; Sarah Deroo and Mollie Shambeau of Brava blogs In the Know and Style File; and me.

It’ll be neat to see what this diverse group of bloggers has to say about Carmen—and I’m excited to see what I think of it. So please check back here on Friday for more posts. And if you attend Carmen this weekend, let me know what you think of the production. True to the spirit of this event, the more voices, the better!

Carmen runs November 6 and 8 at Overture Center. Visit madisonopera.org for more information.

Image courtesy of Madison Opera.

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About This Blog

As managing editor at Madison Magazine, I'm also an unabashed arts enthusiast. Paintings, plays, music, movies—I'm intrigued by all forms of creative expression. I enjoy talking with artists and sharing their insights, challenges, inspirations and latest endeavors. Check in regularly for details on events, previews and reviews, artist interviews and more! 

– Katie Vaughn
Follow Katie on Twitter @katiemv

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