Carmen (RNZB 2017)

March 27, 2017 at 9:44 am | Posted in Ballet Review, Dance Review, Show Review | Leave a comment
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The other night, I went to see the Royal new Zealand Ballet production of Roland Petit‘s Carmen, preceded by Petit’s L’Arlesienne, at the St James Theatre in Wellington. Petit’s Carmen is recognised as a significant neoclassical ballet. But I found L’Arlesienne a much gentler introduction to neoclassical ballet.

L’Arlesienne tells the story of a young man in a village set to marry a woman, yet obsessed with another, invisible, women. Frederi (danced by Massimo Margaria) clearly does not love Vivette (Katie Hurst-Saxon); who loves him and is confused by his distracted behaviour. Their pas de deuxs are choregraphed to emphasis their lack of connection; Viviette tries and tries, but Frederie is almost always facing away and cold.

The choreography for the rest of the villagers is geometric, yet without the grandeur of a romantic ballet. The villagers are starkly dressed and that is their general lot. Against a simple impressionist rendering of golden fields, the young villagers pair off and go about their lives.

Petit re-purposes the circular path so often used in romantic ballets to show joy, happiness, and love, into some darker, angst, yearning, and despair. The part of Frederi is a taxing role. In the final sequences, he is on stage constantly, working himself into every more frantic circles till he finally does a swan dive out a window – killing himself. Margaria does well, he is able to mute his power to stay within the role. Hurst-Saxon is by turns portrays confounded and confused.

After the interval the Company changed gears and put on Petit’s Carmen. This was nothing like the Company’s previous production of Carmen. Petit’s version  is shorter, condensed, and gritter. Don Jose is no sooner convinced that he is love with Carmen, than he has killed her; the story is pared down to the basics, as is the set.

Natalya Kusch, is a fiery independent  Carmen; her pose and attitude completely enslaves Don Jose – danced by Joseph Skelton. Paul Mathews, as the Toreador, has the difficult task of dancing a parody of Don Jose identifying moves – which he does, assisted by a suit of light that looks more like a clown suit!

The final scene when Don Jose overcome by jealousy stabs and kills Carmen shows the genius of Jean-Michel Desire – the lighting designer. A dimmed stage with minimalist props is used as backdrop for spot lights set at the edge of the stage. As Kusch and Skelton dance their pas de deux of death, their shadows fly around the stage – magnifying the emotions and interplay of the dancers. Carmen is defiant; Don Jose is possessive, frantic, desperate, and ultimately stupid.

Carmen is a disturbing story.

George Bizet’s music used in both pieces – provides the perfect emotional backdrop.

Worth seeing. Especially, since Francesco Ventriglia, the choreographer, danced in productions of Carmen, staged by Petit; and worked as a choreographer with Petit.

Carmen – The ballet

June 10, 2010 at 1:37 am | Posted in Ballet Review, Dance Review | 1 Comment
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I went to the opening night of the Royal New Zealand Ballet‘s 2010 production of Carmen, at the St James Theatre in Wellington.Warning: plot revealed.

I grew up listening to Carmen; its seemed like whenever dad had a moment he would put on a vinyl record of Bizet‘s opera. Being in a foreign language, it was years later that I found out what all of the drama and emotion was about. I watched: Carmen Jones many years ago; a DVD with Julia Migenes and Plácido Domingo singing the lead roles some years ago; and Matthew Bourne’s The Car Man a few years ago. So I was curious to see how it would all turn out.

Setting: definitely not Spain! a little bit of Havana and sports-bar blended together.

Main roles: Carmen – Abigail Boyle; Jose – Christopher Hinton-Lewis; Michaela – Katie Hurst-Saxton; and Escamillo – Jaered Glavin. Abigail Boyle was wonderful as Carmen: dangerously attractive, confident, strong, and very much her own women. Katie Hurst-Saxton in a very unflattering frock and hair-do, was every inch the homely jilted fiance.

The Ballet was in three short Acts. The First Act was a little slow, but sets the foundation for the other two Acts: Michaela, Jose (a factory guard), and Carmen (a worker in the factory) are introduced. Michaela’s devotion to Jose is obvious; equally, Jose’s is not so clear.

In the Second Act, Jose’s ordered world is turned upside down. He is led by Carmen off the straight an narrow path that he seemed destined for – corporal of the guard, destined for higher things; marriage and children. Jose has a wonderful sequence with Carmen in the bar where she gradually creates a connection with him, that sees him forsake his duty in favour of spending time with Carmen. The Second Act ends with a great love scene between Jose and Carmen, when he is hiding in the latter’s digs – having accidentally killed the Chief of Police (Paul Mathews).

In the Third Act, Jose’s world falls apart completely: he burns his bridges with the unfortunate Michaela, and finds that he has lost Carmen to Escamillo – a rock star! The end is very tradgic – as always; maybe a modern feminist ending would see a slightly different result.

The re-mix of Escamillo (looking like Billy Idol) as a rock star (a modern day toreador) is an inspired adaption by Didy Veldman. All of the traditional toredor scenes are set to an electric rock rendition of the traditional music. Jaered Glavin’s hip swinging portrayl drew many warm responses from the crowd.

All-in-all quite good: really enjoyed the second and third acts.

I went on opening night and found that Pieter Symonds was not dancing; so that was a little disappointing. What was also disappointing were the seats: the sets have a definite house-right bias, and I ended up in seats that favoured a house-left bias. Consequently, I missed some of Carmen’s entrances in the First Act, and the (clever) video clip at the beginning of the Second Act – showing Carmen’s flight and subsequent re-capture.

Oh yes; or rather no; no pointe work, and no singing or vocals.

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