A seductive and theatrical feast for the eyes.
By David Simmons
Celebrating art in South Africa is probably one of the most rewarding pastimes a person can participate in. We not only pay homage to art in its theatrical form, but applaud and honour the bursting and at times overlooked talent our country has to offer. The latest, sumptuous offering from Joburg Ballet brings us Carmen, a dramatic exploration of passion, seduction, jealousy and betrayal, the perfect quartet for a night of sheer and uncensored entertainment. Together with an illustrious score by Georges Bizet, Carmen scoops a well-deserved double thumbs-up.
Most classical music and opera enthusiasts will be familiar with the music and powerful story of Carmen. However, the title role and character in this impressive ballet is a complex one. Even though Carmen’s transparency is evident on stage, she is a woman with an agenda and an evident carnal desire to seduce even the most inconspicuous of men.
2018 has seen a number of productions focusing on women and Carmen is no exception. With a character who knows no limits in the art of seduction, we as an audience automatically fall in love with her. We may not agree with her motives, nevertheless her conniving free spirit is hard to pass off as unnoticeable. Her journey is one of desire and betrayal that ultimately leads to her downfall.
Set in Seville, Spain, Carmen’s account of love and deception is one we have heard countless times before. Hers is an emotional yet obsessed battle of sort, scarred with the usual complexities of deceitful liaisons. The intense and at times frenzied communication through dance and movement, makes this theatrical savouring all the more enticing. We witness a fiery love affair between Carmen and Don José, but their courtship is doomed from the start. Their passionate connection is distracted with the presence of Don’s finance, Micaela, and not forgetting Carmen’s star struck conquests, Captain Zuniga and Escamillo a famous Toreador. Carmen snakes her way around weaving an imaginary cloak wherever she goes. She leaves no stone unturned and no contemporaries untouched.
The incredibly slick choreography by Veronica Paeper and Iain Macdonald’s artistic direction, gives this Ballet a notable flair, befitting international standards. If you are expecting pink tutus and sparkling tiaras, think again! Carmen is a first-class act filled with gypsies, flamenco influence and the unmistakable sights and sounds of a bygone era. The understated scenic backdrops and sets, typical of life in the 1800’s together with moody lighting throughout, creates a perfect ambience in keeping with an already high-spirited Ballet.
Playing the title role of Carmen is Claudia Monya who smoothly channels her desire and frustration with the flutter of an eyelash, the seductive arch of her leg and even a poised tilt of her neck. She is a marvel to watch with each movement in unison with the rhythmic click of a castanet, or the intense beat of Spanish footwork. Leusson Muniz as Don José is equally convincing and gives an enduring performance. Armando Barros who embodies Escamillo the handsome Toreador and Nicole Ferreira-Dill who takes on the role of Michaela, each exquisitely master their respective roles with fierce determination. Credit needs to be given to the entire company who effortlessly contribute to a very bold staging.
To add to an already outstanding offering, Joburg theatre welcomes The Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra who under the baton of Brandon Phillips creates a dazzling addition to an already well-crafted show. Joburg theatre is highly praised for producing Ballets of the highest standard and Carmen is no exception. The production sits in a league of its own and has a refreshing yet powerful tone. This may be one of the best locally produced ballets I’ve seen and with its incredibly short run it will be disrespectful not to see it twice!
Carmen will be running at the Joburg Theatre until 15 of April 2018. Tickets are available at Webtickets or at the theatre.
Photos: Lauge Sorensen