Carmen, Ballet by Jiří Bubeníček
George Bizet’s captivating, provocative opera Carmen seems destined for a dance production: the score is filled with traditional Spanish dances and intriguing rhythms, and the cast’s Gypsies, soldiers and toreadors have movement ingrained in their very nature. An original production of a Carmen ballet, featuring the inimitable choreography of Jiří Bubeníček, will delight audiences at the Rome Opera House this season.
Working with Bizet’s instantly recognisable and beloved melodies, such as the ‘Habanera’, the ‘Seguidilla’, and the ‘Toreador Song’, Bubeníček builds on the French composer’s haunting score with a daring and modern choreography. He breathes new life into the classic work and thus creates a truly special ballet performance.
Since its debut on 3 March 1875 at Paris’s Opéra Comique, Carmen has captured audiences’ and critics’ attention, thanks in equal measure to its controversial plot and its vibrant and authentic-sounding score, easily Bizet’s finest compositional effort. The fiery libretto by Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy stayed true to Prosper Mérimée’s eponymous novel and turned a spotlight on the dregs of society and their raw, harsh way of life – a break with operatic convention at the time.
The ballet Carmen presents the familiar story of the charming, cynical Gypsy woman who lives her life for the moment and has no qualms about using her beauty and influence in order to get what she wants. She toys with José’s heart, drawing the young soldier away from his loving fiancée Micaëla, only to desert him for her next conquest, the toreador Escamillo. As José pleads for her love, Carmen brushes him off and degrades him. In a moment of total despair and overpowering anger, he strikes her dead.
Bizet did a remarkable job in portraying his heroes and heroines through painstakingly modelled melodies and accompanying orchestration. Bubeníček adds another layer to this supreme effort with his similarly deep and meaningful choreography, which brings out even more of the characters’ emotionality and power. The ballet Carmen at Teatro dell’Opera di Roma offers a unique opportunity to go even further into the classic story and to experience Bizet’s masterpiece in an exciting new format, a must-see offering in the Eternal City.