Carmen - Spanish flamenco
Solo dancers: Carmen - Vanesa Vento; Don José – Ángel Gil; Husband - Joaquín Mulero; Bullfighter - Jairo Rodríguez
Script, Choreography and Lighting: Antonio Gades and Carlos Saura
Music by Georges Bizet (Carmen), Antonio Solera, Freire González, Manuel Penella (El Gato Montes), José Ortega Heredia and Federico Garcia Lorca (Verde que te quiero verde)
Compañía Antonio Gades
Artistic Director: Stella Arauzo. Stage Setting: Antonio Saura
rec. 6 May 2011, Teatro Real, Madrid
Television Director: Ángel Luis Ramirez
Picture: 16:9, Full HD 1080i
Sound: LPCM stereo, dts-HD Master Audio 5.0
Booklet notes: English, French, German, Italian
TEATRO REAL BLU-RAY TR97004BD [112:00]
First thing is to caution that this performance is not wholly set to the music of Bizet’s Carmen. In fact very little of the music from that opera is utilised (CHs. 3, 15, 16, 23). What does appear, is taken from a 1960s Decca recording featuring Regina Resnik, Mario Del Monaco and Tom Krause. In reality, its age does not matter as, in those instances, the dancers perform to the amplified recorded sound. Elsewhere much of the music is played by a guitar duo sometimes accompanied by a solo singer or by a group.
Although little of the music from Bizet’s opera is used the story portrayed in dance is basically the same. This danced performance is essentially that created by the iconic dancer and choreographer Antonio Gades and film director Carlos Saura for a 1983 film. The earlier Carmen film received an Oscar nomination and won the Jury's Award at the Cannes Festival. It followed the very successful earlier filming of the ballet Bodas de sangre (Blood Wedding) created by Gades and filmed by Saura. The performance filmed here celebrates the seventy-fifth anniversary of the birth of Gades.
Antonio Gades is one of the most influential figures in Spanish flamenco. He has played a decisive role in getting the genre recognized by the contemporary art world and introduced his Bizet Carmen choreography in performance in the 1960s. This production shows how the explosive power and intensity of feeling in traditional Spanish flamenco can bring vividly to life the passion, emotion, love and rivalry that is Carmen. In this manner it was performed at Teatro alla Scala, Milan among other notable venues.
In this production with dancers of Compañía Antonio Gades, the balance of the emotions, allied to the variety of music, is particularly well thought through and realised. In his choreography, Gades, with his traditional ballet background, marries that art form and the traditions of the Andalusian flamenco to perfection. As a non-Spaniard, the nature of the true flamenco tradition as distinct from what the tourist often meets is intriguing. When in Spain I have managed to get away from what is little better than tap and belly dancing to see the proper version of which this is a particularly spectacular example. The use of the feet, shod in shoes with hard-capped toe and heel ends, is vital along with periodic rhythmic hand-clapping. Timing is all, particularly in ensemble where exactness is essential if cacophony is to be avoided and the emotions of the musical drama properly conveyed. In this performance manner and execution are perfect (CH.3). The men are all are in modern dress at this stage. The women are more colourfully dressed and much use is made the flow of their skirts. The main soloists use very elegant costumes with that of the bullfighter being particularly striking. All seem appropriate, often spectacular as with the bullfighter (CHs. 20-23) and very enjoyable. Sets are minimal: chairs, small tables and mirrors.
The timing shown includes twelve minutes of explanation by Eugenia Eiriz, Director of the Antonio Gades Foundation. I suggest watching that first. It’s an excellent introduction to the whole.
Robert J Farr
It might not be Bizet’s Carmen but it certainly conveys the drama, individuality and vivacity of Flamenco.