Minot will have a fiery opera this September: “Carmen.” The titular character will be portrayed by highly accomplished Sara Petrocelli, who is under contract to New York’s Metropolitan Opera. The dark-haired, dark-eyed Petrocelli has performed “Carmen” before and it is one of her favorite roles. The role’s range is in the mezzo-soprano (middle-soprano) voice and calls for a lot of flash and verve – qualities that come naturally to the woman who will be Minot’s diva on Sept. 12 and 14. Her arias include some of the greatest hits in opera, including the “Habanera.”
“Carmen is a big undertaking for me, dramatically and vocally,” Petrocelli said. “I’m extremely excited to learn about myself through this rehearsal and performance process, and to bring this amazing music to Minot. These are some of opera’s most recognizable tunes, but I think it’s important to make them sound vital and relevant every time they’re performed. You never know who in the audience might be hearing Bizet and meeting Carmen for the first time. I try to keep that in mind when I’m preparing a role. A privilege, not without a little pressure!”
Part of the reason we in Minot are lucky enough to get this New York-based performer is that she is married to another successful opera singer, baritone Chad Armstrong, who sings all over the world now, but who launched his singing career as a student a Minot State University. Armstrong, whose email address is “Canuckbari,” grew up in Estevan, Sask., and has appeared in a number of Western Plains Opera performances as a convenient way of both working and visiting his home territory. For instance, Chad was a terrific Figaro in last year’s successful production of “The Marriage of Figaro.” This year, Chad will be performing as Escamillo, the Toreador, in Carmen. His great aria is perhaps the best-known song in all of opera, “The Toreador Song.”
“As for my hubby, one of the greatest gifts that came along with the Chad Armstrong package is his relationship with the community in Minot,” Petrocelli said. “It’s become a very special place for us, and we are in it for the long haul! I’m glad he’s a baritone and not a tenor (for many other reasons I won’t name here). If he were playing Jose, I’m not sure I could allow that final scene to play out like the score intends! And I can’t wait to see him in his Toreador costume!”
Petrocelli and Armstrong met and were married a few years ago. They have been to Minot as a couple twice before, as guest artists for an opera gala and as two of the leads in “The Marriage of Figaro.” Petrocelli says that she loves coming to Minot. She likes the “family of musicians” here and the warmth of the North Dakota people.
We at the Western Plains Opera of Minot can report that while we may be warm, Petrocelli will be “hot” in the role of Carmen.
“Carmen” will be performed Friday, Sept. 12, at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, Sept. 14, at 3 p.m.
(Eric Furuseth is a member of the Western Plains Opera of Minot.)