Kickstarter Alert: “Carmen, the Graphic Novel”

Comic Books Entertainment Kickstarter Music

When Arizona Opera  put out a call to its community to pitch new and interesting ways to bring people into opera, tenor Alek Shrader won the pitch with an idea for a graphic novel based on an opera. But which opera? Shrader tells the story: “We all agreed that we should do a well-known opera for the first one. ‘Carmen’ was on their upcoming season, and it fit the bill perfectly. Even if you don’t know this opera, you’ve hopefully heard of it, and I’d bet you’d recognize some of the famous tunes from it.”

The result is a Kickstarter campaign (already funded) for Carmen: The Graphic Novel

While this is Shrader’s first graphic novel, he was able to recruit industry veterans to help him get started. P. Craig Russell not only has a decades-long career as a comics artist, but several of his previous works were adaptations of operas (I have a few of them). He’ll be in charge of the story’s layout, while DC artist Aneke will handle the illustration, coloring, and so on. The pages I’ve seen are beautifully done, and this promises to be an eye-popping way to engage with the opera. Shrader says the book “would resonate with any reader who can understand motivations like desire and freedom,” but, at a more practical level, adults and older children. As he notes, “It’s definitely a mature story, but there’s nothing here that hasn’t been done in Batman or a YA novel in terms of mature content.”

One thing I wondered, though, is how you translate not just an opera but an opera with some of the most recognizable music in the repertoire into a book. I asked Shrader about this, and he explained his thought process. “This is a true adaptation of Bizet’s opera,” he says, “and I was set on following the drama as it unfolds in the show, arias and all. But I never intended to create an illustrated libretto, so in adapting the story of ‘Carmen,’ certain moments were abridged. One of the great things that makes sequential art such a powerful storytelling vehicle is that the reader controls the tempo (and voice, and even mood). So any rogue monologues can be sped up or slowed down at their discretion. Luckily, I’m working with the illustrious illustrator himself, living legend P. Craig Russell. Craig happens to be an opera buff himself … and was invaluable in determining pacing and page space for those musical dramatic beats, while staying in the narrative of the libretto. In translating the text itself from French to English and Spanish, I would make cuts to condense the sentiment but not lose the intention.”

Whether you’re already an opera buff, curious about it, or eager to make someone else curious about it, this graphic novel looks like it will be lovely and a thing to cherish long after the curtain falls.

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