Meet the Artists

Carmen is one of the most iconic roles in the entire repertoire. It takes an especially talented singer to bring her tale of desire and liberation to life. We’re extremely lucky to have not one, but two dynamic singers—Israeli mezzo-soprano Maya Lahyani, and Minnesota Opera Project Opera Alum and mezzo-soprano Zoie Reams. Recently, they were kind enough to sit down with us to answer a few questions about themselves and share what it’s like to prepare for this role.

Describe Carmen in three words.

ML: Charismatic, fearless, independent

ZR: Opportunistic, uninhibited, instinctual

Describe Carmen in three words.

ML: Charismatic, fearless, independent

ZR: Opportunistic, uninhibited, instinctual

What are some of the joys and challenges of performing this role?

ML: Carmen is a complex character. She’s fun to play because she *is* fun! She’s full of fire and a wide variety of emotions. She can be playful as a kid or brutal as a killer. She always creates the excitement. It’s a joy, as a performer, to explore all those extreme emotions and expressions. ‘Putting her on’ is very empowering and very liberating. Carmen is also very challenging because the expectations from playing her are very high. Everyone has an idea of who she is or should be. The role itself is very demanding vocally and physically. She’s almost always on! Always moving, singing, dancing, fighting. It’s a bit like a marathon.

ZR: Some of the joys are being able to sing the beautiful music. Everyone knows this piece because it’s truly a masterpiece and so I’m always honored to sing it. I think the challenge lies in balancing out Carmen’s free nature with her calculated steps she takes to get what she wants.

What are the themes or messages of this piece that you think will resonate with our audiences?

ML: Carmen is a strong, unapologetic, uncompromising, independent woman. A leader. She’s actually as relevant today as she was when the opera was written. The opera deals with love, jealousy, relationships, community, and freedom. I think it’s as universal as it gets and can resonate easily with our audiences today.

ZR: Hopefully audiences will be able to think on their communities and how they can be uplifted and uplift people around them even in hard times. This production will show more of Carmen as a woman and person along with her community. It’s nice to humanize her in this way.

What is it about Carmen that makes it such an exciting piece?

ML: First of all, the music! There’s a good reason why this opera is so popular, the music it truly fantastic. It’s one great number after the other. Combine it with nonstop action and drama, and you get a super exciting evening at the theater.

ZR: There’s so much dichotomy in this piece. We wonder about Carmen’s personality on its own and with José, even when we know how it will end, seeing these two characters fight within themselves and with each other is something that on one level or another, people identify with. This story is deeply linked to identity and morals, and I think that it’s always interesting to view the inner workings of someone else’s moral structure, but especially when it’s heightened in the story of Carmen.

Do you have any plans for your time in Minnesota? Anything you’re dying to try or see?

ML: Our rehearsal schedule is very intense so it doesn’t leave much time to explore at the moment… I also have my six-month-old baby with me, and she takes most of my attention when I’m not in rehearsal. But I’m looking forward for the weather to get better so we can spend more time outside and explore. So far, I really like it here!

ZR: I attended high school here in Minnesota at Shattuck-St. Mary’s school and had a few past productions here with MN Opera, so Minneapolis feels like a second home to me in a way. I’m happy to be here during the spring and looking forward to some leisurely outside time in the many parks here in Minneapolis.


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