Show artwork for Bizet's Carmen
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Bizet's Carmen

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Bizet's Carmen

Friday, February 21—Sunday, February 23, 2025

Friday, February 21—Sunday, February 23, 2025
Orchestra Hall
2 hours
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Experience the timeless delights and drama of Bizet’s Carmen in concert at Orchestral Hall. Jader Bignamini leads an all-star cast with the DSO in a performance celebrating the famous opera’s 150th anniversary. Mezzo-soprano J’Nai Bridges has “the allure, fiery stage presence, and a stunning voice at its prime” (Chicago Tribune) required for the title role.

Program

GEORGES BIZET
Carmen

Artists

Jader Bignamini

conductor

Jader Bignamini was introduced as the 18th music director of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra in January 2020, commencing with the 2020–2021 season. His infectious passion and artistic excellence set the tone for the seasons ahead, creating extraordinary music and establishing a close relationship with the orchestra. A jazz aficionado, he has immersed himself in Detroit’s rich jazz culture and the influences of American music.

In December, Bignamini returned to Detroit to lead a triumphant performance of Jessie Montgomery’s Starburst, Strauss’s Concerto for Oboe and Small Orchestra, and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3, “Eroica.” He returned again in May 2021 to conduct four programs including performances with violinist Midori and pianist Orli Shaham.

A native of Crema, Italy, Bignamini studied at the Piacenza Music Conservatory and began his career as a musician (clarinet) with Orchestra Sinfonica La Verdi in Milan, later serving as the group’s resident conductor. Captivated by the operatic arias of legends like Mahler and Tchaikovsky, Jader explored their complexity and power, puzzling out the role that each instrument played in creating a larger-than-life sound. When he conducted his first professional concert at the age of 28, it didn’t feel like a departure, but an arrival.

In the years since, Bignamini has conducted some of the world’s most acclaimed orchestras and opera companies in venues across the globe including working with Riccardo Chailly on concerts of Mahler’s Eighth Symphony in 2013 and his concert debut at La Scala in 2015 for the opening season of La Verdi Orchestra. Recent highlights include debuts with the Houston, Dallas, and Minnesota symphonies; Osaka Philharmonic and Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra in Tokyo; with the Metropolitan Opera, Vienna State Opera, and Dutch National Opera (Madama Butterfly); Bayerische Staatsoper (La Traviata); I Puritani in Montpellier for the Festival of Radio France; Traviata in Tokyo directed by Sofia Coppola; return engagements with Oper Frankfurt (La forza del destino) and Santa Fe Opera (La Bohème); Manon Lescaut at the Bolshoi; Traviata, Madama Butterfly, and Turandot at Arena of Verona; Il Trovatoreand Aida at Rome’s Teatro dell’Opera; Madama Butterfly, I Puritani, and Manon Lescaut at Teatro Massimo in Palermo; Simon Boccanegra and La Forza del Destino at the Verdi Festival in Parma; Ciro in Babilonia at Rossini Opera Festival and La Bohème, Madama Butterfly, and Elisir d’amore at La Fenice in Venice.

When Bignamini leads an orchestra in symphonic repertoire, he conducts without a score, preferring to make direct eye contact with the musicians. He conducts from the heart, forging a profound connection with his musicians that shines through both onstage and off. He both embodies and exudes the excellence and enthusiasm that has long distinguished the DSO’s artistry.

J'Nai Bridges

mezzo-soprano

Two-time Grammy Award-winning American mezzo-soprano J’Nai Bridges, known for her “plush-voiced mezzo-soprano” (The New York Times) and “calmly commanding stage presence” (The New Yorker), has been heralded as “a rising star” (Los Angeles Times), gracing the world’s top opera and concert stages. 

The 2023–2024 season spotlights Bridges in the world premiere of Intelligence by Jake Heggie, where she takes on the role of Lucinda at the Houston Grand Opera. Bridges will make her subscription debut with the New York Philharmonic and the Boston Symphony Orchestra, performing Julia Perry’s Stabat Mater and Berlioz’s Romeo et Juliette, respectively. She will be returning to the Metropolitan Opera in John Adams’s El Niño conducted by Marin Alsop, as well as taking one of her signature roles of Carmen to the Hamburg State Opera. Bridges’s recital engagements for the season begin with a performance alongside Latonia Moore at the San Diego Opera, continuing with Modlin Center of the Arts and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, with more to be announced throughout the season. 

Bridges’s 2022–2023 season highlights included Bridges as Carmen with debut engagements at the Arena di Verona, the Canadian Opera Company, and a return to the Dutch National Opera and the Lyric Opera of Chicago. As a native of Tacoma, WA, she made her Seattle Opera debut in a concert performance of Samson et Delilah as Delilah in January 2023. Additional concert engagements included Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra in November, and a world premiere by Carlos Simon in April 2023 with the National Symphony Orchestra. Bridges’s recital engagements for the season included a world premiere by Jimmy Lopez at 92NY, as well as performances at Washington University, the Thomasville Center for the Arts, The Cliburn, the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, San Francisco Performances, and the Mondavi Center. 

In the midst of a worldwide pandemic, she emerged as a leading figure in classical music’s shift toward conversations of inclusion and racial justice in the performing arts. In 2022 she was announced as one of the Kennedy Center’s NEXT50 cultural leaders and appeared with The National Philharmonic in the world premiere of Adolphus Hailstork’s A Knee on the Neck that same year. Bridges led a highly successful panel on race and inequality in opera with the Los Angeles Opera that drew international acclaim for being a “conversation of striking scope and candor” (The New York Times). In early 2021, Bridges was featured in the Converse shoe brand’s All Stars Campaign for its Breaking Down Barriers collection. Bridges also performed with the Los Angeles Philharmonic under the baton of Gustavo Dudamel for two episodes of the digital SOUND/STAGE series, and as part of the Global Citizen movement’s Global Goal campaign, a program which also included Coldplay, Shakira, Usher, and more. Bridges returned to the LA Philharmonic and Gustavo Dudamel in June 2022 for a performance of Lieberson’s Neruda Songs as part of the Power to the People! festival. 

The pandemic also forced the cancellation of Bridges’s numerous debuts during the 2020–2021 season, including the title role of Carmen at The Metropolitan Opera. Bridges 2019–2020 season included her highly acclaimed debut at The Metropolitan Opera as Nefertiti in a sold-out run of Philip Glass’s opera Akhnaten, as well as a house and role debut with Washington National Opera as Dalila in Samson et Dalila

Other recent highlights include the 2022 Grammy Award-winning Metropolitan Opera production of Akhnaten and 2021 Grammy Award-winning recording of Richard Danielpour’s oratorio The Passion of Yeshua with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, performing at the National Library of Congress to honor legendary fashion designer Diane von Furstenburg as she received the 2022 Ruth Bader Ginsburg Woman of Leadership Award, her sold-out Carnegie Hall Recital debut, her role debut of Kasturbai in Satyagraha at the LA Opera, and her debuts at the Dutch National Opera and the Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona. Bridges also created the role of Josefa Segovia in the world premiere of John Adams’s Girls of the Golden West at the San Francisco Opera and performed in the world premiere of Bel Canto at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, an opera by Jimmy Lopez based on the novel by Ann Patchett. 

Bridges is a recipient of the prestigious 2018 Sphinx Medal of Excellence Award, a 2016 Richard Tucker Career Grant, first prize winner at the 2016 Francisco Viñas International Competition, first prize winner at the 2015 Gerda Lissner Competition, a recipient of the 2013 Sullivan Foundation Award, a 2012 Marian Anderson award winner, the recipient of the 2011 Sara Tucker Study Grant, the recipient of the 2009 Richard F. Gold Grant from The Shoshana Foundation, and the winner of the 2008 Leontyne Price Foundation Competition. Bridges completed a three-year residency with the Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center at Lyric Opera of Chicago, represented the United States at the prestigious BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Competition. 

A native of Tacoma, Washington, she earned her Master of Music from Curtis Institute of Music, and her Bachelor of Music in vocal performance from Manhattan School of Music. 

 

Russell Thomas

tenor

With a “heroically shining tone of exceptional clarity and precision” (Opera Magazine) and “gorgeously burnished power” (The New York Times), American tenor Russell Thomas uses his signature elegance and intensity to create vivid character portrayals on the world’s most important stages. 

In the 2023–2024 season, Thomas undertakes his first Parsifal at Houston Grand Opera and returns to major stages around the world in signature Verdi and Puccini roles. He sings Radamès in the Lyric Opera of Chicago’s Aida, Cavaradossi in the Royal Opera House’s Tosca, Calaf in the Los Angeles Opera’s Turandot, and Alvaro in the Den Norske Opera’s La forza del destino. He appears in concert and recital with the Edinburgh International Festival, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, and Vocal Arts DC at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, before concluding his artistic residency at LA Opera with Fire and Blue Sky, a world premiere song cycle composed for him by Joel Thompson. 

Acclaimed for his “voice of intrinsic warmth and refined sense of style” (Opera News), Thomas has enjoyed a string of operatic triumphs in key Verdi roles, including appearances as Otello at the Canadian Opera Company and the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, Ernani at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, Manrico in Il trovatore at the Bayerische Staatsoper, Radamès in Aida at the Houston Grand Opera, Stiffelio at Oper Frankfurt, and Don Alvaro in La forza del destino at the Deutsche Oper Berlin and the Opéra national de Paris. An alumnus of the Metropolitan Opera’s Lindemann Program, Thomas most recently returned to the Met as Don Carlo and Rodolfo in La bohème. Other important appearances include Cavaradossi at Lyric Opera of Chicago, Idomeneo at the Salzburg Festival, Roberto Devereux at the San Francisco Opera, Radamès and Otello at the Los Angeles Opera, Florestan in Fidelio at the San Francisco Opera and the Cincinnati Opera, and Calaf and Adorno in Simon Boccanegra at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden. Thomas created the role of Lazarus in the world premiere of The Gospel According to the Other Mary by John Adams and Peter Sellars, and his portrayal of Tito in the new Sellars production of La clemenza di Tito at the Salzburg Festival drew praise from The New Yorker, which noted, “Thomas’s penetrating tenor, which has lately acquired richness and heft, anchored the evening.” 

Thomas’s “ardent expression and spine-tingling high notes” (Cincinnati Enquirer) have been heard in the Verdi Requiem with the New York Philharmonic and the national symphonies of Washington, DC and Barcelona. He has appeared as tenor soloist in Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the New York Philharmonic, and the symphonies of Dallas, Detroit, Atlanta, Seattle, and Houston; the title role in Oedipus Rex at the LA Opera and with the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, under the baton of Esa-Pekka Salonen; and as tenor soloist in Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with the New York Philharmonic, the Vienna Philharmonic, the Dallas Symphony, the BBC Proms, and the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Tanglewood. Thomas created the role of Lazarus in the world premiere of The Gospel According to the Other Mary, a passion oratorio by John Adams and Peter Sellars, commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic. 

During the hybrid 2020–2021 season, Thomas began his tenure as Artist in Residence at the LA Opera, where he plays a substantial role in artistic planning and casting. In addition to hosting and curating the company’s After Hours recital series, he has spearheaded new training programs designed to serve outstanding singers from historically Black colleges and universities and Los Angeles public high school students from underserved communities. 

Ailyn Pérez

soprano

Hailed by The New York Times as “a beautiful woman who commands the stage” and “a major soprano,” Ailyn Pérez is in demand at the world’s leading opera houses and cultural capitals. As Opera News observes, “The phrase ‘an embarrassment of riches’ might have been invented to describe the combination of talents that belong to Ailyn Pérez … who truly seems to have it all.” Internationally celebrated for her signature artistry, as the winner of the 2012 Richard Tucker Award she became the first Hispanic recipient in the award’s history. 

Notable engagements of the current season include Pérez’s greatly anticipated title role debut as Puccini’s Madama Butterly at Teatro di San Carlo, which she reprises later this season at the Houston Grand Opera and the Teatro Real de Madrid. At the Metropolitan Opera, she makes her thrilling role debut as Florencia Grimaldi in a new production of Daniel Catán’s Florencia en el Amazonas and stars as Micaëla in Carmen. Additionally, she sings her first performances with the Washington Concert Opera as Magda in La Rondine and stars as the title role of Tosca at the Hamburg State Opera. 

Career highlights include Violetta (La traviata) at Opernhaus Zürich, the Hamburgische Staatsoper, Staatsoper Berlin, Bayerische Staatsoper, the San Francisco Opera, the Teatro alla Scala, and the Royal Opera House – Covent Garden, where she was hailed as “an ideal Violetta” (Observer, UK). Pérez then went on to appear at Covent Garden in the same season, as the title role in Massenet’s Manon, and for her role debut as Liù (Turandot). Other highlights include Thaïs, Mimì and Musetta (La bohème), and Juliette (Roméo et Juliette) at The Metropolitan Opera; Adina (L’elisir d’amore) for the Bayerische Staatsoper, the Deutsche Oper Berlin, the Wiener Staatsoper, and the Washington National Opera; Contessa Almaviva (Le nozze di Figaro) for Houston Grand Opera (having made her house debut there as Desdemona in Otello); Violetta and title role of Manon on a tour of Japan with the Royal Opera House; Tatyana Bakst in the world premiere of Jake Heggie’s Great Scott (featured on an acclaimed Erato recording release) and Manon for The Dallas Opera; house debuts at the Bolshoi Theatre as Mimì (La bohème) and at Glyndebourne as Alice Ford; Contessa Almaviva (Le nozze di Figaro) and Marguerite (Faust) for Hamburgische Staatsoper; Marguerite (Faust) in Santa Fe, and Amelia Grimaldi in Simon Boccanegra at Teatro alla Scala and Staatsoper Berlin, and also opposite Leo Nucci at Opernhaus Zürich. 

In concert, Pérez has performed Verdi’s Requiem with the Orchestre Métropolitain in Montréal conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Mozart’s Requiem with Antonio Pappano and the Accademia Santa Cecilia Orchestra in Rome, and Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 with the Essen Philharmoniker. In recent seasons, Pérez has made guest appearances at gala concerts for The Metropolitan Opera and the Royal Opera House. Pérez has also appeared in recital for London’s Rosenblatt Recitals at Wigmore Hall, Philadelphia’s Kimmel Center, and with the Santa Fe Desert Chorale. Her debut album, Poème d’un jour (a program of French and Italian songs on the Opus Arte label), was released to rave reviews, with the UK’s Independent newspaper awarding it five stars, while International Record Review confessed, “Every so often, a singer comes along who completely bowls you over.”  

Paulo Szot

baritone

Baritone Paulo Szot has garnered international acclaim as both an opera singer and an actor. Born in São Paulo to Polish immigrants, Szot has appeared with most major opera companies throughout the world. In 2008, he won the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical for his portrayal of Emile De Beque in the Broadway revival of South Pacific at Lincoln Center Theatre. In the current season, Szot will present concerts in Warsaw, St. Louis, and New York City. 

In the 2020–2021 season, Szot appeared in concert at the Arizona Opera, at 54 Below in NYC, and with the Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra. He began the 2019–2020 season with a return to the Metropolitan Opera as Sharpless in Madama Butterfly, after which he appeared with Opéra de Monte Carlo as Frank Mourrant in Kurt Weill’s Street Scene. On the concert platform, the baritone also appeared at Lincoln Center and with the Barcelona Symphony. Szot began the 2018–2019 season as Juan Perón in Opera Australia’s critically and popularly acclaimed production of Evita, after which he appeared as Count Danilo in The Merry Widow at the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma. He later returned to the Ravinia Festival in Mahler’s Symphony No. 8 and Bernstein’s Mass and Trouble in Tahiti. In the 2017–2018 season, Szot sang Escamillo in Carmen at the Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich, Don Alfonso at the Opéra national de Paris, and Frank Mourrant in Street Scene at the Teatro Real in Madrid. He also sang Bernstein’s Mass with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at the Ravinia Festival and with the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain at the Royal Festival Hall in London, conducted by Marin Alsop. 

Engagements from the 2016–2017 season included Don Alfonso in a new production of Così fan tutte at the Opéra national de Paris, a solo recital at the Teatro Real de Madrid as a salute to Frank Sinatra’s recordings of Antonio Jobim’s bossa novas, and a performance at the nationally televised New Year’s Eve Gala with Alan Gilbert, Joyce DiDonato, and the New York Philharmonic. He also created the roles of Alexander Hamilton, Bill Clinton, and Dick Cheney in the world premiere of Mohammed Fairouz’s The New Prince at Dutch National Opera. In the 2015–2016 season, Szot sang Lescaut in Manon Lescaut at Theatro Municipal de São Paulo, Dr. Falke in Die Fledermaus at the Metropolitan Opera, Sharpless in Madama Butterfly at the Opéra Municipal de Marseille, and performances of Zemlinsky’s Lyric Symphony in São Paulo. He also returned to New York City’s famous 54 Below for a run of critically acclaimed solo performances. In the 2014–2015 season, Szot sang the Captain in The Death of Klinghoffer at the Metropolitan Opera, Count Almaviva in Le nozze di Figaro at the Aix-en-Provence Festival in Bahrain, Escamillo in Carmen at the Glyndebourne Festival, and Lescaut in Manon Lescaut at the Theatro Municipal de São Paulo. He also appeared in a series of solo performances at 54 Below. Engagements for the 2013–2014 season included Kovalev in The Nose and Dr. Falke in Die Fledermaus at the Metropolitan Opera, the title role in Eugene Onegin at Opera Australia, and a series of solo performances at 54 Below. 

Szot’s engagements for the 2012–2013 season included his debut at the Washington National Opera in the title role of Don Giovanni, his debut as Filippov in a new production of A Dog’s Heart at Teatro alla Scala in Milan, and Kovalev in a new production of The Nose at the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma. He also returned to Carnegie Hall with the New York Pops Orchestra and performed in an acclaimed solo concert with the NY Philharmonic. In the 2011–2012 season, Szot sang Lescaut in Manon at the Metropolitan Opera, Count Almaviva in Le nozze di Figaro for his debut at the Aix-enProvence Festival, and Escamillo in Carmen for his debut at the San Francisco Opera. He also returned to New York City’s Café Carlyle for a series of concert performances. 

Szot’s engagements for the 2010–2011 season included the title role in Don Giovanni for his debut at Dallas Opera, Guglielmo in Cosi Fan Tutte for his debut at Opéra national de Paris, and a two-week engagement at the famous Café Carlyle in New York. He also returned to the Metropolitan Opera as Escamillo in Carmen and appeared in concert at Carnegie Hall with Deborah Voigt and Collegiate Chorale. In the 2009–2010 season, Szot made his highly acclaimed Metropolitan Opera debut in a new production of The Nose by Shostakovich, conducted by Valery Gergiev, and his Carnegie Hall debut with the New York Pops Orchestra in a program of Lerner and Lowe. He appeared in South Pacific on Broadway throughout the season as well. 

In addition to his performances in South Pacific, Szot’s engagements during the 2008–2009 season included his New York Philharmonic debut in a concert conducted by Marvin Hamlisch, alongside Liza Minnelli, and his debut at the Ravinia Festival in concert with Kelli O’Hara. He also appeared in concert in the Allen Room at Jazz at Lincoln Center as part of the American Songbook Series. In the 2007–2008 season, Szot sang Marcello in La boheme at the Opéra national de Bordeaux and Count Almaviva in Le nozze di Figaro for his debut in Antwerp at De Vlaamse Opera. 

Szot was born in São Paulo and raised in Ribeirão Pires, Brazil. He began his musical training at the age of five, first studying piano and later adding violin and dance. Szot studied at Jagiellonian University in Poland, the country from which his parents had emigrated following World War II. He began singing professionally in 1990 with the Polish National Song & Dance Ensemble “Slask,” and he made his operatic debut in a production of Il Barbiere di Siviglia at the Teatro Municipal de São Paulo. After starring in the Broadway revival of South Pacific at Lincoln Center Theatre, Szot won the Tony, Drama Desk, Outer Critic’s Circle, and Theater World Awards for his portrayal of Emile De Beque in 2008, becoming the first Brazilian actor to receive such honors. 

Opera MODO & Audivi

choir

Opera MODO is a new and exciting opera company in Detroit, Michigan dedicated to creating opportunities for young and emerging artists. Founded in 2011 in Princeton, New Jersey, Opera MODO brings opera to the people through intriguing and modern productions of classical to contemporary operas. 

Collaborating with local performers and businesses in Detroit, Opera MODO offers an intimate experience to engage audiences through storytelling, musical integrity, and innovative process. They support the future of opera by giving young, non-managed, professional singers an opportunity to gain experience. They present opera in an intimate setting allowing the audience to engage with the performers. They specialize in setting standard repertoire in new and imaginative settings, bringing new life to their favorite stories. Their team strives to balance inspiration from the composer through collaborative storytelling to enhance the experience for the audience and performers. Opera MODO is a registered 501(c)3 non-profit organization.


Audivi is a professional vocal ensemble based in Detroit, Michigan. Founded in 2013, Audivi sings music of all eras, with a special emphasis on new and early music, and has premiered works by many composers. Its members have sung and recorded with a panoply of Grammy Award-winning vocal ensembles, and Audivi has performed around the country. 

Audivi has given the Detroit metro area premieres of Monteverdi's 1610 Vespers and a historically-informed version of Bach's Mass in B minor. Audivi has performed at regional ACDA and AGO conventions and serves as a professional chorus for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, including recent performances of Puccini's Turandot, Vivaldi's Gloria, and Handel’s Messiah. 

Ann Arbor Youth Chorale

choir

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