Artiklar från 2008 – till idag
Under the direction of Nicolas Le Riche, the Royal Swedish Ballet presented a double bill of French choreography. Roland Petit’s Carmen is a timeless gem. Premiered in London in 1949, the choreographic language was entirely new and remains an original in a class of its own. Petit takes the essence of Prosper Mérimée's novella, edits George Bizet’s score to a taut 40 minutes, and tells the narrative at a rip-roaring pace, combining extreme theatricality with raw reality and conflicting ravishing sensuality with high comedy.
Antoni Clavé’s minimal designs are perfectly pitched. The washing lines in the grimy opening alley way, the gaudy lights in the taverna, the fans on the bedroom wall and the wheels in the encampment all capture the flavour and become part of the action. Don Jose’s powerful thrust to set a hanging wheel in motion before he commits murder, embodies the forces he has unleashed, and the triumphant flurry of hats thrown in the air cruelly contrast the death of Carmen. Sadly, his brilliant front cloth that masks the scene changes and packages the work was inexplicably missing.
The setting may be Seville, but the protagonists are inimitably French. Sex appeal is easily transferred, Carmen effortlessly shifts from street siren to Parisian chic: long-legged, short haired, gamine. Petit’s Don Jose is a limited edition, forget the naïve soldier, this Don is suave and elegant with superb machismo.
Luiza Lopes as Carmen made a fiery entrance, immediately taking control and leaving Don Jose quite out of his depth. She displayed seductive charm but stopped short of the full power thrust of an undisputed queen of the low life. However, her eloquent shoulders and precision technique were used to great effect in this marathon of a role that moves at speed from enticement, to consummation, to rejection. Gianmarco Romano as Don Jose gave a riveting performance, developing the character through each scene. In the Habanera, he takes centre stage to perform with studied ease, a pseudo mating ritual. In an extraordinary range of deviant dance moves he never loses his masculine cool igniting the flame that passes to Carmen and is fanned by the superb bandit trio as the scene climaxes with a zapateado on pointes.
The bedroom pas de deux is the steamy heart of the ballet where with unfailing flair, Petit finds the movement and shape to capture the emotion. Again, the bandits, Coralie Aulas, Julien Keulen and Jérémie Neveu, are on hand, this time with a dose of coarse comedy which effortlessly morphs into tragedy. Now a murderer, Romano realises he has crossed the red line. The choreography is minimal, the emotion is complex, and Romano got it perfectly. Petit again relieves the tension with high comedy before the finale. Daniel Nordgren Jensen, as the Toreador, finds the irony in a raised eyebrow although he was too powdered and painted to be fully convincing.
The final confrontation of the lovers to a solitary drumbeat is another master stroke. Like bulls locking horns, they go head-to-head, the steps are minimal, but the intentions are real. It remains one of the most exciting ballets in the repertoire and the company demonstrated their enthusiasm in vivid characterisations.
In 1920, the Ballets Suédois took up residence at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées and captivated Paris with its innovation and avant-garde artistic vision. Under the patronage of Rolf de Maré and illuminated by the talents of dancer and choreographer, Jean Börlin, it brought together artists from all genres, and was described as ‘a synthesis of the intellectual life of today’.
In 1921, Jean Börlin was invited to rechoreograph Claude Debussy’s charming score for La Boîte à Joujoux, (The Toy Box). Using André Hellé’s witty designs, from the previous unsuccessful production, Börlin rechoreographed the ballet using angular movement and investing the characters with psychological depth and humour. In its fresh new guise, it remained one of Ballet Suedois’ most loved ballets.
Update to 2022 and the ballet is revived with Debussy’s music, dazzling costumes and inventive storybook designs by Bea Szenfeld. Börlin’s ideas and steps are sadly lost, and Jean-Guillaume Bart’s choreography lacks both the innovation and depth which a toy box theme needs to give any relevance. To watch, in this day and age, the silly antics of toy soldiers in a major opera house is disquieting, and best forgotten. All things considered, the dancers gave of their best and deserve high praise.
La Boîte à Joujoux/Carmen, Royal Swedish Ballet, Stockholm 3 March 2022
This review was first published in the April 2022 issue of Dancing Times and Dansportalen has published it simultaneously.
Grundad 1995. Est. 1995