Walla Walla Symphony is wrapping up its 108th season on a high note.
It’s taking on Georges Bizet’s classic opera Carmen, with help from from Walla Walla Choral Society and a slate of soloists from the region and beyond.
A choir of students from Walla Walla Public Schools also is taking part.
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Performances are at 7:30 p.m. May 16 and 3 p.m. May 17 in Cordiner Hall at Whitman College in Walla Walla.
“It’s a very exciting season finale that brings (several groups) together and presents something of remarkable quality,” said Yaacov Bergman, conductor. “We’ll end the season at a very high point artistically.”
Carmen is among the most famous operas. It tells the story of Don José, a naive soldier who falls for the beautiful and wily gypsy Carmen.
“It has all the ingredients of good opera — love, beautiful characters and eventually somebody dies,” Bergman said with a laugh.
The music is enchanting, exquisite, he added.
And it will be familiar even to people who aren’t regulars at the opera.
Carmen’s musical themes have appeared in everything from Sesame Street to the movie Up.
Leah Wilson-Velasco, the symphony’s executive director, said she recently heard a song from the opera in an appliance commercial.
“There will be little nuggets that people will recognize,” she said. “It’s delightful music. People will leave the hall humming the themes.”
The symphony orchestra includes 45 musicians. They’ll be joined on stage by 60 singers from the Walla Walla Choral Society and a 50-student youth choir for the semi-staged production.
Ten featured singers will take on Carmen’s rich cast of characters. Sarah Mattox starts in the titular role, with Cameron Schutza as Don José.
Others in the cast include Anton Belov as Escamillo, Max Mendez as Zuniga, Jeremy Irland as Moralès, Craig Allen as El Remendado, Monica Griffin Hunter as Michaëla, Diane Gray-Chamberlain as Frasquita, Lexa Ferrill as Mercédès and Justin Raffa as El Dancaïro.
Ron Williams and Raffaele Exiana are the stage directors, and Jeremy Mims is the rehearsal pianist.
The opera is in French, but English supertitles will be projected above the action.
Bergman said Carmen is a masterpiece, both musically and theatrically.
Wilson-Velasco added that with so many performers on stage, the Walla Walla performances “are going to be fun, a lot of energy.”
“The music is delicious,” she said. “It’s an opera not to be missed.”
Tickets are $17-$28 for adults, $8-$16 for students and $5 for youths 18 and younger.