Carmen; Story: Kids Captivated Carmen

Rimrock Opera Company's Carmen at the Alberta Bair Theatre.


Kids captivated Carmen

Gazette News Services | Posted: Wednesday, March 25, 2009 11:00 pm
“No” never sounded as blasphemous as it did Thursday coming out of Carmen’s painted lips.

How dare she spurn Don Jose’s worshipful adulation and choose death over love? Five hundred area high school students felt opera’s force Thursday morning at the Alberta Bair Theater. The high drama, including a girl fight, a duel with knives, and a death scene, wasn’t lost on them.

“I liked the death scene best. And the woman who played Carmen was really good,” said Heidi Breeden, a sophomore from Forsyth.
Heidi Rae, a Lewistown native, played the title role and Jeff Kitto, of Bozeman, played her spurned lover Don Jose. Carolyn Coefield played Jose’s childhood sweetheart Micaela.

Elizabeth Schneemann, also a sophomore from Forsyth, said she sings in the school choir, but wasn’t sure if she’d ever tackle an opera role.
“I’d be nervous,” she said.

The Forsyth students boarded buses before sunrise to catch the morning performance of Rimrock Opera Company’s production. They planned to have lunch at Rimrock Mall before heading home. Not one school canceled their trip to see the opera, despite snow-packed roads, ABT education director Bess Fredlund said.

Students came from Cody, Wyo., Reed Point, Joliet, Lodge Grass, Laurel and across Billings. For many, it was their first opera and several dressed for the occasion. Randell Hopkins, a freshman at Billings Christian School, donned a tie and dress shirt. He and his peers studied the plot during two lunch sessions so they could follow the action.

“This should be pretty good,” Hopkins said just before the curtain went up. “I watched ‘Phantom of the Opera’ and I guess it will be sort of like that.”
Douglas Nagel, ROC general director, said he was impressed with the young audience.

“The kids really paid attention,” Nagel said. “They were pretty excited about being here.”

The opera is set in Spain, sung in French, with dialogue spoken in English. The ROC last performed it in 2002. French students from Billings Senior High took in the performance and some said they were able to interpret a few words without looking up at the projected super titles above the stage.
“It was pretty cool hearing them sing in French,” said Nick Pelensky, a sophomore in French 2.

Heads bobbed during the more recognizable melodies, including the “Toreador” song performed by most of the 70-member chorus and Escamillo the matador, played by baritone Christopher Holmes.

About halfway through the first act, a toddler dashed out of his seat and leaned over the railing to watch the 30-piece orchestra performing in the pit below the main floor of the ABT. His mom grabbed him before he fell onto the musicians. Unfazed, music conductor Andy Anderson kept his wand waving and his face smiling throughout the three-hour performance.