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‘Carmen and the Bull’ an Opera-tunity for families, Inland Northwest Opera

By Nina Culver For The Spokesman-Review

Inland Northwest Opera will hit the road this month to bring performances of the children’s opera “Carmen and the Bull” to Spokane and the surrounding area.

The performances are part of the “Opera-tunities” program designed to expose children to opera. The performances take place on a touring mobile stage that is built into what has been dubbed the Opera Truck that was paid for by local grants, said artistic director Dan Wallace Miller.

The stage inside the truck, which also includes sound equipment, is about 6 feet by 10 feet, Miller said. “There’s something exciting about opening up the side of the truck and having the stage there,” he said. “We can take the truck to towns and locations that don’t have the facilities we need.”

The grants that paid for the truck were part of the funding made available to artistic groups during the height of the COVID pandemic. “A lot of the stuff was because COVID disrupted just everything,” he said.

The Opera Truck was first used last year to present touring performances of “Little Red Riding Hood.”

“Carmen and the Bull” is a combination of the tale of “Ferdinand the Bull,” who is known for sniffing flowers, and the opera “Carmen” by composer Georges Bizet. The original “Carmen,” which is about a woman who seduces a soldier, is much darker. Carmen and the Bull uses some of the same music, but Carmen has been recast to be primarily a woman who loves to dance, Miller said.

“It takes away the grim aspects of Bizet’s ‘Carmen,’ ” he said.

Miller said he thinks everyone can appreciate the messages the opera attempts to teach, including that it is better to smell flowers than to start fights. “It’s a story written with children in mind,” he said.

Inland Northwest Opera has been presenting children’s operas for the last several years and “Carmen and the Bull” was originally scheduled to be performed in 2020, he said.

Miller said he hopes that children and families will attend the performances and discover that opera isn’t only for elites, but that it’s an art form that is for everyone. “All it takes is a little bit of exposure,” he said. “We’re using professional quality artists. You are getting actually true opera singing.”

Miller’s first exposure to opera was when his father took him to see rehearsals of Wagner’s “Ring Cycle” in Seattle, where he grew up. “My dad was a huge opera fan,” Miller said. “I was hooked.”

He was 5 when he first saw “Carmen” and would listen to the music constantly, even though he didn’t understand the words. He just knew he loved the music. Miller said he will consider this summer’s tour successful if he can touch and inspire even one child with opera the way he was.

All of the hourlong performances of “Carmen and the Bull” are free. Performances have already been held in Spirit Lake and Pinehurst, Idaho.

Upcoming performances are scheduled as follows:

Thursday – 6 p.m. at the Potlatch Public Library in Potlatch, Idaho.

Friday – 10:30 a.m. at Stoddard Park at 8348 N. Chateaux Drive in Hayden.

Saturday – 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. at the Olmsted Brothers Green Park at Nettleton Street and Summit Parkway in Spokane.

Monday – 11:30 a.m. at City Park in Newport, Washington; , 5 p.m. at the Metaline Falls Library in Metaline Falls, Washington.

Tuesday – 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. at the Coeur d’Alene Public Library at 520 E. Front Ave. in Coeur d’Alene.

June 30 – 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. at the Riverfront Park Clocktower Meadow in downtown Spokane; and July 1, 5:30 p.m. at the Emerson Garfield Farmers Market at 2310 N. Monroe in Spokane.

Info: inlandnwopera.com.

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