‘Carmen’ with Dancing Horses Premieres in Clinton, June 4

'Carmen' with Dancing Horses Premieres in Clinton, June 4

CLINTON — There were six horses, each three-quarters of a ton of moving muscle, gliding across the arena with riders on their backs, each marching in time to the music. They moved gracefully, springily and in near perfect formation.

The scene was an indoor riding arena at Idlenot Farm in Clinton in the spring of 2019.

“I was blown away by the horses’ innate sense of rhythm and their precise movements,” said Kate Ford, executive director of the Connecticut Opera Theater.

She and Alan Mann, artistic director of the Opera Theatre, watched Patricia Norcia, owner and dressage trainer at the farm, her diminutive figure belying her quietly oversized personality. They observed his sense of drama, pomp, occasion.

“Let’s do it,” Ford said, referring to Norcia’s idea for a production of Carmen, one of the best-known and best-loved operas of all time, which includes prominent roles for her horses. and his riders.

“The horses will do their numbers to the music, and that will set the stage for the opera singers to sing, and they’ll alternate through the highlights of the opera,” Norcia said. “It has never been done, that I know of.”

On Saturday, June 4, Idlenot Farm will host a preview presentation and fundraiser for September’s main event, when the OTC, in conjunction with High Hopes Therapeutic Riding, will stage “The Passion of Carmen in the Arena” at High Hopes Arena. in old Lyme.

For Norcia, the concept has been in the making for more than two decades.

It all started when Norcia, at the time a professional actress and director in New York, saw performances of the opera Carmen at the Metropolitan Theatre.

“They usually had horses, but they would stay there and then go away,” Norcia said.

“If you see the Carmen movie with Placido Domingo, there’s a ton of horses, especially in the bullfighting scene, and the horses are what they’re supposed to be, they’re fancy Spanish horses.”

“I kept thinking that one day, when I have Spanish horses, I would like to do a Carmen where the horses can dance to this fantastic music.”

Norcia, who grew up in Rome, remembers seeing wild horses running around the town where her family vacationed. They captured his imagination.

“Always when I was in school, all I did was draw horses, think about them, and take pictures of them,” she said. When her family arrived in the United States, they began taking riding lessons, jumping, and trail running. She was 14 years old.

“I knew I wanted to do something more artistic and then I saw dressage,” she said. She was addicted.

“Dressage requires horse and rider to combine the strength and agility of gymnastics with the elegance and beauty of ballet,” she said.

From the age of 25, she traveled regularly to Spain to study the origins of the discipline, honing the skills to develop what is called “a living work of art”, i.e. the horse and the rider in perfect harmony.

All the while, she was pursuing a professional acting career. “Broadway, off-Broadway, regional theater, television,” said Norcia, who trained at the Yale School of Drama. She said she was best known for “The Art of Ruth Draper,” a one-man show she performed at Carnegie Hall, among others.

While doing summer stock in Vermont a few years later, Norcia resumed riding lessons. “I met a little 2-year-old Morgan Arabian, and ended up buying her for $700 at the end of the summer,” she said.

Soon she found herself rolling more and more. “My stable asked me to pay for my horse’s pension by teaching,” she says. His equestrian clientele is growing. She imported her first horse from Spain.

“And then I had four horses, and that’s when my husband and I decided maybe it was time to have a horse farm in Clinton,” she recalled. “We wanted to get out of town, so our kids could go to public school.”

One day she was driving along Main Street in Clinton and saw a sign at City Hall. “Opera tonight by the Opera Theater of Connecticut,” he said. “I thought to myself how can the small town of Clinton have an opera company?” she remembers.

Norcia knew Ford and Mann through her involvement with the Opera Theater of New Jersey during her years in New York. She enrolled with her two children in their opera company. She continued to teach and train horses in classical dressage and competition. A few years later, she broached her idea of ​​her horses dancing to a production of Carmen with Ford.

She and Mann drove to Idlenot Farm and watched. The rest is history.

During rehearsals, “we learned from Patricia that some horses are more musical than others, and those who are extremely musical will find that rhythm and immediately measure their trot to that rhythm,” said Ford, the general manager.

Those trained in dressage, she said, “tend to be more musically oriented.”

Mann said the two-legged and four-legged performers will be dressed in brightly colored costumes, with a nod to Spain. “There will be a grand military entrance, training for a bullfight, and drama, passion, unrequited love and tragedy, all good things,” he said.

Carmen will be played by Rebecca de Almeida, a decorated Brazilian mezzo-soprano with a “luscious voice and warm timbre”, according to a review by Tribuna CT. She will make her Carnegie Hall debut later this year.

The collaboration with High Hopes Therapeutic Riding, which provides the arena, is a special bonus, and not just because it’s in “a beautifully wooded and easily accessible area,” as Ford put it.

“High Hopes and I have had a long relationship,” Norcia said. “It’s a wonderful, wonderful place that has done amazing things for young people. Children who cannot walk can walk because the horse gives them their legs.

“It’s all so wonderful,” she added. “It’s a dream come true. I can not wait.

Fundraiser is at Idlenot Farm, 188 Cow Hill Rd, Clinton at 1 p.m. on June 4, 2022. Tickets, $50 each. The event was sold out at press time.

‘Carmen’s Passion in the Arena’ will be presented on September 10 and 11 at 3 p.m. at High Hopes Arena, 36 Town Woods Road, Old Lyme.

For tickets, $50, visit or call 860-669-8999. Reserved seating with reception tickets is also available with a chance to meet and greet the two-legged and four-legged performers after the show, while enjoying wine and hors d’oeuvres.

To donate to the Opera Theater of Connecticut, visit

For more information on Idlenot Farm, visit