Opening night for the IU production of Georges Bizet's "Carmen" was sold out, and seats were packed long before curtain. The production deserved every bit of this attention -- the performance of "Carmen" is by far one of the best of the season.\nThe first and foremost aspect to the success of the performance was the music. The audience already had high expectations as some of the most famous melodies in opera come directly out of this particular opera, so emphasis must be placed on the musical aspect in order for the performance to be successful.\nThe orchestra under guest conductor Mark Gibson handled the music excellently. The score was interpreted in a way that brought out the full energy and exuberance of the music. From the very first note of the overture it was obvious that the orchestra was well-directed and knew exactly how to handle the music. Not once did the orchestra sound overbearing, too timid or too heavy.\nThough this alone could have sufficed for an adequate performance, the stage action was the other major element that made the performance so successful. Guest stage director Jonathon Field needs to be credited with directing some very demanding stage action that despite its difficulty, appeared completely natural.\nCarmen herself was without a doubt the best-executed role. Sophie Roland gave the role its necessary hot temper, willfulness and sensuality. Yet, at the same time, she sang the part almost as if it was second-nature. No part illustrated this combination of theatrical and vocal talent than in the famous "Habañera" aria, where Roland sang while sensually slithering down a flight of stairs. Roland also handled the wide range and extreme tempos very well.\nMarcos Aguiar as Don José seemed a bit stiff at first -- but then again, the character is meant to be rather disciplined and uncomfortable around the loose gypsy life. Any doubt was removed at the end, when Aguiar played Don José after he goes insane. The contrast Aguiar gave between the stiff soldier and the madman removed any doubt about successful interpretation of that character.\nOther parts deserving commendation are Scott Skiba as Escamillo and Alexis Lundy as Micaela, not to mention the large chorus and children's chorus required in several scenes.\nAnother clever addition was the use of real cigarettes in the scene where the cigarette factory worker-women are on break. It added an appeal to an extra sense -- not only sight and sound, but also smell was used to bring the audience into the action.\nThe one element that was a bit lacking was the stage design. Though the cantina in Act 2 and the mountain scene in Act 3 were beautiful, the opening and closing scenes lacked color. The setting is in Seville, a city full of colorful, Arab-influenced architecture, fountains and palms trees, yet none of this played into the street scenes in the production. The costumes added plenty of color, but a splash of it in the scenery as well would have made the visual element even more vibrant.\n"Carmen" is an opera that everyone should see, if for no other reason than it is so well-known. This production is a very good interpretation of the opera, and anyone interested or curious about opera would do well to attend this show and receive an excellent sampling of it.