September 26th, 2007 5:33 pm | by Stephen Marc Beaudoin News | Posted In: CLEAN UP

UPDATED: Penn to pinch-hit for Perez in Thursday Carmen


More Portland Opera drama!

Singer Jossie Perez—the lollipop-sucking, pelvis-thrusting, shimmy-and-shake star of the company's season-opening production of Bizet's Carmen—has fallen ill and withdrawn from Thursday night's performance of the opera and may not be back to finish the run (the final performance is Saturday), according to production insiders and confirmed by Oregonian classical music critic David Stabler.

No word from Portland Opera officials yet on Perez's replacement, though Studio Artist Hannah Sharene Penn, who made an impression in the supporting role of Mercedes, one of Carmen's friends, at last Friday's performance, seems like the natural standby for the part. As a rule, Portland Opera does not officially hire "cover singers" (a.k.a. understudies) for their productions; this has caused the company grief over the last season, as a number of principal singers have either fallen ill or suddenly left from Portland Opera productions, leaving the company to fly in expensive last-minute replacement singers.

Expect updates Thursday as more info comes in from the Opera; for now, let's enjoy this classic Sesame Street clip (below), featuring an old-school stop animation citrus fruit offering a special intepretation of Carmen's "Habanera."
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UPDATED, 12:06 am, Thurs Sept 27: According to members of the production's cast, Portland Opera Studio Artist Hannah Sharene Penn will perform the title role of Carmen in the opera's Thursday night performance, substituting for Jossie Perez, who informed the company Wednesday of an undisclosed illness and withdrew from the Thursday show. Penn has performed roles with companies including Glimmerglass Opera and Florida Grand Opera, and made an impression on Boston audiences - this critic included - during her time as a Doctoral student at New England Conservatory, where she performed leading roles in productions of Mark Adamo's Little Women and Massenet's Cendrillon. Thursday will mark her first time out in the complete role. Portland mezzo Katherine Growdon will step into Penn's former role of Mercedes, one of Carmen's sidekicks. Perez, who is on 48 hours of doctor-mandated vocal rest, is expected to return for the final Saturday performance; word on that will come sometime Friday from the company.

UPDATED, 5:25 pm, Sat Sept 29: Perez is back in for tonight's final performance, according to Julia Sheridan from Portland Opera.

(photo above: mezzo Jossie Perez in rehearsal for Portland Opera's "Carmen," courtesy of Portland Opera)
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