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Start Humming the Torreador Song; Carmen is Coming Back to HGO

As far as tenor Brandon Jovanovich is concerned, Bizet's Carmen might be better entitled Don Jose's Girlfriend. "Really the arc of the piece is his transformation from good boy to murderer," Jovanovich says, although allowing that the Gypsy seductress would probably not agree to the retitling.

Jovanovich, last seen at Houston Grand Opera singing the title role in Verdi's Don Carlos, says he's been all over the world singing the four-act Carmen and this will be his 16th different production.

"He's one of my favorite characters. Usually I play a lot of tenor stuff - you're a lover or the love interest. So when I get a chance to play a murderer, by gosh it's OK," he says laughing.

Jovanovich, just coming off a very harsh winter in Chicago, says there are two interpretations of his character. In both cases, Don Jose is in the army trying to walk the straight and narrow. But in one, he's trying to turn his life around after already killing a man. In the other, he's more of an innocent, albeit one with a dark side whose life goes to pieces once he meets Carmen.

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"I'm somewhere probably down the middle I'm trying to be a good boy but at the same time you can tell I've got some problems," he says.

Besides the characters and the plot line filled with drama, misguided passion and unrequited love, the music was the best that Georges Bizet ever did, with songs like "Torreador Song," "Habanera" and "Seguidilla," Jovanovich says.

Soprano Ana Maria Martinez sings the role of Carmen and bass-baritone Ryan McKinny (also appearing in Das Rheingold now at HGO) is Escamillo. Carmen opens April 25 and runs through May 10. Sung in French with projected English translation. 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Tuesday and 2 p.m. Sunday, Wortham Theater Center, 501 Texas Avenue. For information . For information call 713-228-6737 or visit houstongrandopera.org. $30-$390.

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