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'Carmen' on tap for Lakes Area Music Festival

Carolyn Sproule will sing the title role of “Carmen” this weekend when the Lakes Area Music Festival presents the opera in two performances at Tornstrom Auditorium in Brainerd. Submitted Photo

"Carmen," one of the most performed operas of all time, is coming to Brainerd, thanks to the Lakes Area Music Festival.

Because the festival's operas have been so popular, there will again be two performances: 7 p.m. Saturday, Aug.12, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 13, both at Tornstrom Auditorium in Brainerd. Both are free.

The festival will take a musical voyage to the British Isles that will include one Ralph Vaughan Williams' violin solo "The Lark Ascending" at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 16, also at Tornstrom.

"Carmen" is the story of a fiercely independent gypsy woman in Spain who seduces a soldier, causes him to become a deserter and an outlaw, and then throws him over for a bullfighter. It premiered in Paris in 1875 to largely negative reviews, and its composer, Georges Bizet, died soon after, never knowing what a hit he had created.

As with the five previous operas the festival has presented, this will be a semi-staged production, meaning there will be costumes and some scenery, but the orchestra will remain on the stage. In addition to the orchestra and opera roles, there will be a 20-person chorus and 12 members of the Northfield Youth Choirs.

Half an hour before each opera performance, John Birge, of Minnesota Public Radio, will interview conductor Andrew Altenbach and director JJ Hudson. This event is sponsored by the Five Wings Arts Council and Region 5: The Good Life.

On Wednesday, Jonathan Magness, who has been one of the festival's musicians in all of its nine seasons, will perform the violin solo in Vaughan Williams' "The Lark Ascending." He is the acting principal second violin for the Minnesota Orchestra.

The two other works on the program are by composers who spent important parts of their lives in England, even though they were not British - Franz Joseph Haydn and Felix Mendelssohn.

Before the concert, at 6:30 p.m., Altenbach will give a pre-concert lecture.

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