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Performing In ‘Carmen’ At San Diego Opera


The San Diego Opera ends its season with the beloved and passionate opera "Carmen" by Georges Bizet. We'll talk with an up-and-coming soprano and the baritone behind the bullfighter, Escamillo.

The San Diego Opera ends its season with the beloved and passionate opera "Carmen" by Georges Bizet. We'll talk with an up-and-coming soprano and the baritone behind the bullfighter, Escamillo.


Talise Trevigne is making her company and role debut with San Diego Opera as Micaela in "Carmen."

Wayne Tigges plays the bullfighter Escamillo in "Carmen."

Carmen opens on Saturday at San Diego Opera and runs through May 22nd. A broadcast of this opera will appear on KPBS Radio on Sunday, June 18, 2011 at 7PM.

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This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

CAVANAUGH: The San Diego opera ends its season with the beloved and passionate opera, car men. By George Bizet. Carmen is set in 19th century Seville, Spain, where a beautiful gypsy named Carmen seduces the upstanding soldier, don Jose, who goes mad from love and jealousy. It does not end well. We're fortunate to have two performers with us today. Talise Trevigne is making her company and role debut as Micaela in Carmen. Good morning.

TREVIGNE: Good morning.

CAVANAUGH: And Wayne Tigges plays the bullfighter, Escamillo in Carmen. Wayne, good morning. Thanks for coming in.

Q. My pleasure, good morning.

TIGGES: CAVANAUGH: Talise, you play Micaela, as I just said. Tell us about this character. She's really the opposite of Carmen in some ways, isn't she?

TREVIGNE: She's the complete opposite. She is the pure one in the opera. She's the light and the goodness. And she was an organ that was taken in by don Jose's mother. And she has great devotion to his mother and to him. What's wonderful about this character is we've been able to explore a lot of clarity in their relationship 678 her love for don Jose is an admiration, almost a hero worriship. Which is lovely. And she's, you know -- it's nice to explore a character that has such great depth and inner strength and beauty, and myself being a fiercely loyal person, it's nice to play such a character.

CAVANAUGH: A lot of people, a lot of actor it is say, you know, it's the really nasty characters that we really like to play though. But wire giving this another twist.

TREVIGNE: Yeah. I think it's certainly easier to play a saucier, nastier character, I normally do. So it's been a challenge for me to find sincerity and innocence in this character. And have that come across as real. Yes.

CAVANAUGH: Micaela has a really beautiful aria in Carmen of let's hear a little of it. This is from a London decka recording, unfortunately we don't have you singing it, but we have Kiri Tekanawa as Micaela, accompanied by the London symphony orchestra.

(Audio Recording Played).

CAVANAUGH: That is from a London Decca recording, of the aria of Micaela, that Micaela sings in Carmen. And of course we have Micaela with us, the San Diego opera production, Micaela, Talise tragene. And the bull fighter with us too, Wayne Tigges. That was beautiful, by the way, and I'm sure people will love that aria when they hear it. When they go to Carmen. You play Escamillo, the bull fighter.


CAVANAUGH: And as pure as Micaela is, you're all bravado, you're all posture.


CAVANAUGH: You perform one of the most recognized pieces in opera. What is that like for you?

TIGGES: It's -- I mean, it's one of the most recognizable -- the.

CAVANAUGH: The toreador song, yeah.

TIGGES: Everybody's familiar with it, so there's always a little bit -- it's pretty scary because --

CAVANAUGH: People sing along?

TIGGES: Yeah, people sing long, and they know every note. You want to make sure you do it the right way. You want to make sure you're perceived the right way as a bull fighter who has skill and grace and sings the song really, really well.

CAVANAUGH: How do you give that your own personal spin if it's been done so much?

TIGGES: Well, I think a lot of people think of Escamillo differently in the fact that they think of testosterone as being, like, a tension. And what I want to bring to the character is having that bravado and that machismo without having the tension, but having confidence and calmness to the character. So you could really get the sense that there's a skill and an art to the form of bull fighting as opposed to trying to overpower the bull.

CAVANAUGH: I see what you're saying.

TIGGES: Because it's impossible to overpower a bull. You have to use your skill and grace.

CAVANAUGH: Someone who is a bull fighter rather than someone who's posing as one.

TIGGES: Exactly. And I think it's very -- a lot of Americans, I think just main don't have the right idea of what I bull fighter is.

CAVANAUGH: Let's remind people what song we're talking about, this is the toreador song, again, with the London symphony orchestra, and Jose van dam is Escamillo.

(Audio Recording Played).

CAVANAUGH: That's the toreador song from the opera Carmen. And we have the San Diego opera production's Escamillo with us. His name is Wayne Tigges. Of Wayne, you read hemming way to prepare for this role.


CAVANAUGH: And hemming way's death in the afternoon.

TIGGES: Death in the afternoon, yes.

CAVANAUGH: What did that give you?

TIGGES: It gives you a very, very detailed account of what it's like to be a bull fighter. I mean, he -- hemming way dedicated an entire novel to is this. You get a sense of what it's like to be in the bull fighter's mind. You know that the closer you are to the bull, the more courage that the bull fighter has. And it's finding interesting things like bull fighters prefer a courageous bull as opposed to one that's cowardice, because it's more predictable. And it gives you a great, great idea of how the bull fighter lives.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now, considering that you don't actually have to fight a bull in this play.


CAVANAUGH: It must be a fun role for you.

TIGGES: It is a fun role. I mean, every -- everything we do is really a fun role of it's always good to take yourself out of your own personality and be somebody else. And escape reality for a while. And it's good for the audience as well. Because that's why they're there, to enjoy themselves and get out of reality for a couple hours and enjoy great music.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now, Talise, before three years before your playing Micaela in Carmen, you auditioned for the San Diego opera. I wonder if you could take us into that audition room. What is that like?

TREVIGNE: It was a rather for me, it was a rather unusual audition. The only typical thing was that I was on stage in the house. But Ian was really lovely and he was set out in the opera house with a few other people in the administration. And after singing a few Arias, and a little chat in between, he says, you know, I can't talk to you from there. Come out into the house. And so we spent a good probably 30†minutes after the audition just chatting and talking about life and common friends, and things like that. It turns out that Karen cater in, one of the main conductors there at the house.


TREVIGNE: Was actually very good friends with my very first voice teacher. So we just found out we had a lot of things in common. And I instantaneously got the familiar sense of the company and how he runs it. It's run with great precision. It's a very well oiled wheel. But it's also very much a family environment. Which is lovely. It's nice to come to work and to be able to work on such a high level. But yet feel like you're at home amongst family at the same time. So it's a very rare combination.



CAVANAUGH: I know that you're back in San Diego for a production next year of Moby-Dick.


MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now, if I recall this novel, there's not a lot of women in the book.

TREVIGNE: No, there's not one.

CAVANAUGH: So is this a -- a pants role?

TREVIGNE: It is a pant role. It is a pant role. The role, pip, was -- I created the role of pip. And it is -- was originally they had an idea for a boy, to use a 13-year-old boy. But -- or someone slightly younger. But they realized that it would be very difficult to have a 12 or 13-year-old boy be able to hold his own next to ben Hepner on stage.

CAVANAUGH: And ben Hepner plays?

TREVIGNE: Ahab. He's captain Ahab.


TREVIGNE: He will not be here in San Diego, but he was the original Ahab.


TREVIGNE: So I was in San Diego, sorry, excuse me, Dallas. And the general director there had said to me can you be at the met on Monday at 4:30? And I said -- yes. And I'm thinking, why is -- someone from Dallas sending me to the met? And it was to sing for Patrick summers who is the artistic director at Houston grand opera, just to confuse the situation even more. And he conducted Moby-Dick, he was the conduct offer of proof for that. But he said we have -- we're creating this new opera, Moby-Dick. And I said, okay.

CAVANAUGH: Am I the whale? What?

TREVIGNE: And I said okay, I've read that book twice. And I don't remember any women in that story at all.

CAVANAUGH: Right, right.

TREVIGNE: But yes, he said, well, save for one soprano who we've decided we've been looking for a Pip, he said, for over a year, and he said it's been like the search for scarlet O'Hara. So they eventually decided that I was pip.

CAVANAUGH: Is it any -- is it difficult for you to maintain with that cast of voices? Do you need to rely on different muscles to be able to project that role as a male in that company?

TREVIGNE: No. Fortunately Jake is so brilliant with writing for the voice, it's actually quite easy. I was worried when I showed upon for the first day of music rehearsals, and there were 75 men standing behind me, alongside a Hilton tenor. I was slightly concerned of but because of the timbre, and the tessitura it's quite easy to hear me over the men. And Jake, he's just genius at writing for that. And all of the roles that he wrote, they picked the -- she chose the singers, he likes to write for a specific voice. And that's how -- you know, so we met very early on in the process. And it was very -- it was very much written for me in -- and it was very easy to sing because it was tailored to my instrument and what I do. But yeah, no, it was very easy. It's wonderful. He's genius at how he can do that.

CAVANAUGH: The lives and the careers of opera singers always just fascinate me. And I suppose that perhaps it started to fascinate me when you were first exposed to opera, Wayne? Did you -- getting back to Carmen, the production that we're talking about, when did you first see a production of Carmen?

TIGGES: That's actually a funny story. The very first Carmen that I saw, I was out in the audience, and you be they have these above or below the stage, subtitles or super titles issue whatever you want to call it. They have the translation of it in English, or whatever language it -- or country it happens to be in. And I was watching this Carmen performance. And there was this beautiful, dramatic moment at the end, and it was the end where don Jose stabs Carmen and kills Carmen. And while he stabs Carmen, I looked up at the supertitles and it said your computer has a virus, please restart. So that was my last exposure to Carmen, and I fell in love with it since then.

CAVANAUGH: In that case, the super titles Defendant's Exhibit help.

TIGGES: That's right. So the whole audience was laughing, and don Jose was just like wow. I just stabbed somebody, this is not funny at all.

CAVANAUGH: Do you remember the first production that you saw, Talise of Carmen.

TREVIGNE: Actually the first production that I saw of Carmen in complete was not until I moved to New York to be a singer, actually. I didn't start an in opera, my background was in dance. So this was a very late decision, very last minute decision. So I always say that, you know, I didn't pick opera, opera picked me.

CAVANAUGH: As they say, the careers and lives of opera singers are always fascinatingly. I want thank you both for speaking with us. Talise Trevigne.


MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Thank you so much.

TREVIGNE: Thank you for having me.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And Wayne Tigges, thank you. I thank you.

CAVANAUGH: I want to let everyone know that they're both performing in Carmen, which opens on Saturday, at the San Diego opera, it runs through May†22nd, and coming up on These Days, we'll talk about what is happening over the weekend, including a movie starring Mel Gibson and a beaver hand puppet. Yes. You're listening to These Days on KPBS.


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