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Hot Times at the Long Beach Opera

August 08, 1993|EMILY ADAMS

It's tough to be cool when it's steaming outside.

Let's face it; summer makes geeks out of us all. Hair goes stringy and limp by midday, white shirts develop embarrassing yellow stains, and we hang our imperfect legs out of walking shorts. That black turtleneck will stay closeted until at least November.

While we can't help you out of midsummer fashion faux pas, we can help you act cool.

After all, what could be more hip than a new production of "Carmen," presented by the Long Beach Opera, performed under the stars at the John Anson Ford Amphitheater? Take a date. Discuss the merits of the libretto afterward, over iced cappuccino. Now that's cool.

Here's an interesting factoid you can use for conversation starters: When "Carmen" first opened in Paris in 1875, the show was a complete disaster.

Opera fans were incensed by the use of modern themes in the show. People stayed away in droves. Now, "Carmen" is considered a museum-piece opera and remains popular, even if the racy themes are not so shocking anymore.

The opera will be sung in English, from a recent translation. But if you have a hard time understanding the words inside the high notes, we will give you the crib notes here.

Carmen is a Gypsy working in a cigarette factory in Seville. She gets in a terrible fight one day with another worker. Carmen apparently wins, but is arrested (violence never pays).

While in custody, Carmen wins the obsessive love of an Army corporal who is also her jailer. The lovesick corporal helps her escape, then follows her back to her Gypsy tribe.

Another woman might have settled down, but this one goes to a bullfight and falls in love with the matador. Her corporal becomes crazy with jealousy. And we'll stop the crib notes here, just in case you like a surprise ending.

Another surprise will be the set design. Michael Milenski, general director of the Long Beach Opera, is willing to say only that the entire opera will be performed under a giant billboard. Other than that, he wants this new look for the opera kept under wraps.

A good reason to attend one of the three performances of "Carmen" this month is that it's part of a season intended to revive the lovely old Ford Amphitheater. So you'll look cool and help save a Los Angeles landmark. Everybody wins.

"Carmen" will be presented three times: Aug. 14, 19 and 21 at the Ford Amphitheater, 8580 Cahuenga Blvd. E., near the Hollywood Freeway (101). All shows begin at 8 p.m. and tickets range from $22 to $60.

For tickets: (213) 466-1767. For information: (310) 596-5556.

And if you can't afford the real production, there will be a free concert performance of the opera at 8 p.m. Aug. 17 at the Downtown Long Beach Amphitheater, on the Promenade between 1st Street and Broadway. No tickets necessary. Who needs costumes and props, anyway?

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