Carmen, Ballet by Jiří Bubeníček
Carmen, Prosper Mérimée’s intriguing tale of seduction, heartbreak and tragic retribution, has enjoyed a lasting reign on the operatic stage. It owes much of its success to the innovative and captivating music of Georges Bizet. This season, classical performance lovers in Rome can enjoy Carmen in ballet form thanks to Teatro dell’Opera di Roma’s production, featuring the bold and expressive choreography of Jiří Bubeníček.
The original opera Carmen, with a libretto by Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy, debuted at the Opéra Comique in Paris on 3 March 1875 and left its audience in shock and disbelief: never had a stage work explored sexuality and violence so openly and candidly before. The focus on society’s outcasts – Gypsies, thieves, and peasants – was another clear break with convention that secured Carmen’s scandalous reputation.
Bizet’s music, on the other hand, garnered universal praise for its atmospheric qualities, deep emotionality and unique engagement with each character’s inner world. Bubeníček’s modern choreography harnesses these musical characteristics and translates them into elegant yet visceral movement that uncovers new, unseen potentials in Bizet’s rich and masterfully crafted score.
The Carmen ballet unfolds in two acts and stays true to the well-known original story. The beautiful Gypsy enchantress Carmen toys with the heart of the young soldier José and breaks up his engagement to the young Micaëla. She then moves on to another fling with the handsome toreador Escamillo, leaving the devastated José behind. Filled with heartache and jealousy, the young soldier confronts Carmen one final time and, after her humiliating repeated rejection, takes her life.
The unique emotionality and atmosphere of Bizet’s Carmen lends itself to the ballet form beautifully, as guests of Teatro Costanzi in Rome are sure to appreciate. The famous melodies of the ‘Habanera’ or the ‘Toreador Song’ figure prominently in the ballet score and sound as powerful as backdrop to the mesmerising dance routines Bubeníček has designed. Let yourselves be drawn into the dark, enchanting world of Carmen with music and dance that stand the test of time!