Adriana Zabala is ‘Carmen’ 

Wildwood Park presents beloved tragic opera on Friday.

click to enlarge STARRING AT WILDWOOD: Zabala.

Adriana Zabala performs the title role in “Carmen” for the first time this weekend at Wildwood Park for the Performing Arts, but if her resume is any indication, it probably won’t be the last. Anyone who has seen this young, attractive mezzo-soprano in past appearances here knows she embraces a role, makes it her own, and is called upon by opera companies throughout the world to reprise it over and over.

She says, though, that doing something new like “Carmen” is intriguing.

“It’s terrific in that I’ve been doing many of the same roles repeatedly for the past few seasons, and just in its novelty it’s exciting,” she said last week as rehearsals kicked off at Wildwood for its June opera.

For years, Wildwood crammed a couple of operas and other events into June and part of July as part of its annual festival of the performing arts. In 2005, Wildwood artistic director Ann Chotard expanded the offerings to encompass almost a full year. “Carmen” is June’s biggest event and closes the park’s 2005-2006 season.

Showtime is 8 p.m. Friday at the Lucy Lockett Cabe Festival Theater. The program also will be performed in Hot Springs Village at the Woodlands Auditorium on Tuesday, June 20, at 7:30 p.m.

For tickets to the Wildwood performance, which range from $30 to $50, call 821-7275. For the show in Hot Springs, reserved tickets are $25 and those planning to attend from outside the Village will need to call 501-922-4231 to get their names on a list to enter the security gates (either off Highway 5 coming from Little Rock or Highway 7 coming from Hot Springs).

Zabala says the title role “is also not like any character I’ve played, and the character is the most seductive, open, vulnerable, passionate, all those things I’ve done with other characters but they don’t go to the levels that must be sustained here. I mean to say, there is a lot more passion with Carmen. To sustain something like that has been interesting and fun.”

“Carmen,” composed by Bizet and based on a novella by Prosper Merimee, was first performed in 1875 in Paris, and has become one of the most well-known and best-loved tragic operas. It’s the story of a sensuous gypsy girl in Seville and her ill-fated love affair with Don Jose, an army corporal.

Along with Zabala, regular Wildwood performers George Dyer, Christine Donahue, Gregory Pearson and Robert Holden return. Chotard directs, and the opera will be performed in English. Zabala and Dyer, whose stage chemistry helped make Wildwood’s “The Barber of Seville” such a success, “hit the ground running” when “Carmen” rehearsals began, Zabala said. “We have instant chemistry.”

Zabala, a well-traveled New Yorker, said Wildwood is like a second home.

“I love to come here, and I can certainly tell you why. It’s because Ann [Chotard] has created an atmosphere where the things that happen here are unique to the personnel, to the people in the creative roles, and it’s never going to be like it is somewhere else,” Zabala said.

She added, “Even if I have a number of performances in ‘Barber of Seville’ or ‘Cinderella’ in other places, they tend to be standard productions. But I know I’m not going to come here and do something that is cookie-cutter. In the last three things I’ve done at Wildwood, Ann has given me carte blanche, which is quite a lot of fun.”

Outside of Wildwood, Zabala says she’s building a career doing standard roles many times, so coming to Little Rock allows her to grow, she said.

“This experience, more than any other I’ve had, has stretched me … That’s what I find special about Wildwood and wish more people in my profession and community knew about it.”

For more information, call 821-7275, 1-888-278-7727 or visit www.wildwoodpark.org via the Internet.




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