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The IU Opera Theater's "Carmen" is musically strong, dramatic, violent and sexy. For balance, it also has a fair amount of humor and a couple of scenes of high silliness.

Lisa LaFleur was vocally secure and dynamically dramatic as the wild gypsy Carmen, a girl who's both driving and driven by her passions. John Sumners had some lovely moments as the young corporal Don Jose, torn by his passionate love for Carmen from both his dutiful military life of service and domestic life of intended marriage.

Don Jose's intended, Micaela, was sung by Jing Zhang. Despite being dressed as though she'd come from a Swiss chalet instead of a Spanish village and having the least dramatically active part, she showed that in the right vocal hands, Micaela can wield some powerful attractive forces of her own in the women's battle for Don Jose.

Austin Kness was the flashy, cape swirlingly balletic bull fighter Escamillo.

Stage director Jonathon Field has plenty for each of the leads to do with a good deal of intricate choreography. Scenes ranged from the high drama of Carmen's arias in the tavern and the bull fighter's dramatic singing of an episode in the arena to some amusingly staged silliness as Carmen, her girl friends and the two smugglers discussed their plans. Even in the large crowd scenes it seemed that many of the cast had their own worked out stories to tell.

Conductor Mark Gibson presided with visible enthusiasm. In acknowledging the audience's welcoming applause for one of the acts, it looked as if he might vault from the the pit out into the house.

Saturday night's audience seemed at first a bit hesitant about applause, but by the final curtain it had warmed up considerably. As each group of the cast came out for bows more and more of the audience rose for a final near general standing ovation.

The IU Opera Theater's production of "Carmen" has its final two performances this Friday and Saturday at eight.

You can an interview with the Carmen from this Saturday's cast mezzo-soprano Sophie Roland on our Arts Interviews page .

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