Brian Jagde is Don José in San Francisco Opera’s presentation of Calixto Bieito’s Carmen through July 3. The Saturday performance, July 2 at 7:30 will be simulcast to AT&T Park for the annual Opera at the Ballpark. The cast will include Irene Roberts (Carmen), Ellie Dehn (Micaëla), Zachary Nelson (Escamillo), Edward Nelson (Moralès), and Brad Walker (Zuniga). Conductor Carlo Montanaro marked a spectacular debut at the opening night performance. “Don José is a brute,” said Brian. “I always warn people – he’s a killer!”

“This production is so highly stylized. I always try to approach the role first through the book. The story [by Prosper Mérimée] starts before what we see in the opera. He’s already murdered some people and got caught for the last one. That’s why he’s a soldier. He was given a choice – go to jail or join the army. The army offered a little more freedom – he wouldn’t be sleeping in a jail cell. He’s just an insecure guy who kills people. He gets so violent, so angry. It’s the only way to resolve his issues with them, the only way he knows to solve his own problems.”

“Insecurity is something we all go through. I had to learn how resolve certain issues. So, I use that part of my history and then go further with it. Don José is usually onstage before Carmen sings the Habanera. ‘Be on guard,’ she says, ‘because if you love me, I’m not going to love you.’ That is what the whole aria is about – this personality trait of hers. She throws away guys who throw themselves at her. If you don’t do that, she will think – ‘Ah, he’s interesting!’ In this show, you don’t see José getting that at all. The first time she sees me, she throws me a flower. I don’t know who she is or what she is. She is actually the kind of woman he wanted to be with all the time. He thinks a relationship should somehow go towards what his family had. Obviously, that is not her style. This relationship was meant to butt heads.”

The production by Calixto Bieito has been in circulation since 1999. Its revival director, Joan Anton Rechi, marks his debut with San Francisco Opera. The show is loaded with a long list of manipulations, motivations, omissions, and novel settings that seasoned viewers have been assessing since its world premiere in Catalonia. Seventeen years later – especially for newcomers attending this Saturday’s July 2 simulcast at AT&T Ballpark – it will be what it will be: an “as is” experience. Bizet’s score remains just as exciting as ever and (though there won’t be a rose between anyone’s teeth) the principal cast and chorus are fabulous. Brian Jagde’s lyric tenor chops are enthralling, his rendition of Don José’s Act 2 aria, “La fleur que tu m’avais jetée” (The Flower Song) is dazzling. Brian’s ascension on the phrase that leads to the sustained high B-flat is delivered gently and seamlessly, the tonal quality is jewel-like. Even at the opening night performance, he knocked it out-of-the-park. As thousands cheered.

Read the entire interview by Sean Martinfield via The Huffington Post

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