Carmen!

Last week saw the limited run of Opera Carmen, a French Opera from the 19th Century by Georges Bizet. It was performed on the occasion of the 170th anniversary celebrations of TU Delft and the 9th anniversary of the Krashna Musika, the student orchestra group of TU Delft.

Organized by the Delftsche Opera Company, and with the help of the TU Delft, Director Floris Visser did not have an easy task set out before him. The story of Carmen, the gypsy woman of Seville saw a modern reinterpretation of the classic tale. Attendees could pick up the non-traditional props and clothing styles that did not exist in the 19th century, as well as the inclusion of children in a very captivating role.

The Aula was magically transformed over the period of three hours. With the conventional podium occupied by the orchestra, this non-traditional stage set-up saw a splendid performance happening around the audience and sometimes just a whisker away from oneself seated near the aisle.

Alexandra Schoeny, who played Frasquita, "I auditioned for Carmen in March of 2011. For an opera singer, role preparation begins in the practice room, alone. We are all expected to show up to the first staging rehearsal with the entire role memorized - both text and music - and be ready to put it on its feet."

So how was it working with Floris Visser? "He has an uncanny ability to take a traditional story and bring it to life in a new way without betraying the essential character of the piece. He also helped us keep far, far away from the clichés which so often plague productions of Carmen, and I think together we were able to create a visceral, powerful evening."

While the main tenors and mezzo-sopranos were professionals, many of the other singers where students of TU Delft and the children were from the Academy of Vocal Arts. The orchestra, composed of students from Krashna Musika, was led by Daan Admiraal. Adds Schoeny, "Carmen is a difficult piece - there are many transitions and moments which musically are very complicated, and I felt that they [the orchestra] rose to the challenge admirably." The performance ended with the audience erupting in a applause which only became louder as the beloved cast took a bow.

With Floris Visser taking over as the new cultural director for the TU Delft, one can hope for many more such performances, as he introduces the world of theatre to the engineers at the TU Delft.