Isabel Leonard and Michael Fabiano in Carmen at the Washington National Opera. 
Courtesy of Scott Suchman

By Sheila Wickouski

Celebrate the seventeenth season of free opera broadcasts when the Washington National Opera (WNO) brings George Bizet’s Carmen to Audi Field, home of the D.C. United, on Sunday, September 25 at 4:00 p.m. 

American mezzo soprano Isabel Leonard stars as the tragic heroine Carmen, who lives life on her own terms.  Michael Fabiano performs as Don Jose, the soldier who must have Carmen – or kill her.  Ryan Speedo Green sings the Toreador role of Escamillo, including a dramatica arrival on a live white horse.   

Carmen is not only one of the most frequently performed grand operas, it is one that gets people singing. There is the “Seguidilla,” which is a dance that Carmen performs, then the “Habanera,” another kind of dance. The most famous piece is the Toreador’s Song, a widely-known tune used in many movies and Bugs Bunny cartoons.

The troupe of dancers and chorus are dressed in period costumes in rich earth tones. This vivid music is matched by WNOs vibrant staging, as the story moves from a square in Seville outside a cigarette factory to Lily Pasta’s tavern, on to the smuggler’s mountain pass camp and finally to a dramatic end outside of the Seville arena. 

Green, who sings the Toreador role, is a star bass-baritone with the Metropolitan opera who was inspired to become an opera singer after seeing a performance of Carmen. In Sing For Your Life by Daniel Bergner, which starts with Green’s  early life in Suffolk, Va., includes his time as a teenager imprisoned in the now-closed DeJarnette Center in Staunton and his early training in music, Green is quoted as saying. “The singing the sets, the outfits—I was transported.”

Such is the magic of the opera!


Event Timeline

2:00 p.m. – Gates open for pre-opera fun

4:00 p.m. – Carmen begins

The production is approximately 90 minutes, and is performed in its original French with projected English titles. Seating on the field is available on a first come, first serve basis.

Audi Field concessions will be open for the broadcast and during the pre-show activities. Guests who plan to sit on the outfield grass may bring blankets; chairs are not permitted on the field. Only flat shoes (nothing with a heel or cleat). No tents, umbrellas, metal, plastic, glass, or aluminum containers of any kind, hard-sided coolers or containers of any size. No bags larger than 14” by 14” by 6” will be allowed into Audi Field. No backpacks will be allowed (“cinch bags” that fit the size restriction will be allowed). 

Pre-Show Activities

Attendees are encouraged to arrive early and enjoy the festive family friendly atmosphere. The special pre-show entertainment will include performances by local artists, photo opportunities, arts and crafts for children of all ages and chances to win prizes. 

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