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Ewbank’s Carmen
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[quote author=“Jaccozoveel”]Up and running (en ziet er interessant uit!)
http://www.carmenthemusical.com

De demo’s zijn dus nu ook beschikbaar op de site, heb ik er de afgelopen weken voor noppes moeite voor lopen doen… 😛

Het ziet er tof uit, prachtig decor. Jammer dat ik de muziek eigenlijk best wel uh… saai vind. Alleen Ah Men is een top nummer, de rest doet me niets.

Ik hoop voor de heren achter Carmen dat het gaat lukken in de VS.

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And all shall know the wonder
Of Purple Summer

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  [ # 1 ] 25 April 2007 11:12 PM
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Up and running (en ziet er interessant uit!)
http://www.carmenthemusical.com

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And all shall know the wonder
Of Purple Summer

http://www.facebook.nl/toneelgroeprhetorica

  [ # 2 ] 26 April 2007 12:33 PM
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Ziet er zeker interessant uit!

en wat ik zo hoor in de workshop filmpjes kunnen er leuke songs in zitten. Ben benieuwd of het gewaardeerd wordt

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Please , take away this mirror! This mad man isn’t me!

  [ # 3 ] 26 April 2007 07:36 PM
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Er is ooit een productie van Carmen de musical in Nederland geweest (was niet zo’n succes geloof ik…)
Is dit dezelfde musical qua muziek e.d. als toen?

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Have you ever yearned to go, past the world you think you know,
been in thrall to the call of the beauty underneath?

  [ # 4 ] 27 April 2007 08:01 AM
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Nee, zeg. Dat was de gepimpte muziek van Bizets’ opera. Voor Ewbanks’ Carmen heeft ie zelf nieuwe (en wat oude Borsato) muziek geschreven.

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Momenten zijn als water. Ze zijn zo weer uitgewist…

  [ # 5 ] 28 April 2007 10:38 PM
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Die oude Carmen was met joke de Kruyff en Janke Dekkers en één van de vreselijkste avonden muziektheater die ik mocht beleven. Teksten om te gieren van het lachen (en dat was niet de bedoeling….)

Dit lijkt me leuker….

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  [ # 6 ] 01 May 2007 01:54 PM
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Inmiddels kun je ook op onze site fragmenten van 3 (demo)nummers uit Carmen beluisteren. Natuurlijk een stukje van Ah men, wat ik echt een fantastisch nummer vind. Ook de opening (overture) mag er zijn.

Kijk maar in de grijze bovenbalk op de Homepage

  [ # 7 ] 10 June 2007 07:14 PM
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Musical Carmen: Nederlandse droom in Amerika

SAN DIEGO - Producent Robin de Levita maakt in Amerika zijn droom waar. Zijn musical Carmen gaat zaterdag 16 juni in première in San Diego. Samen met componist John Ewbank werkte hij de afgelopen jaren aan het project. Ewbank werkt al jaren voor Marco Borsato en in Carmen komen dan ook een paar Borsato-liedjes voorbij.

Carmen is een musical over de noodlottige driehoeksverhouding tussen zigeunermeisje Carmen en haar twee minnaars. Het verhaal is van boekenschrijver Prosper Mérimée en werd al over de hele wereld als opera opgevoerd. Het is de eerste keer dat er een musical van het wereldberoemde verhaal is gemaakt. „Er is geen woord hetzelfde als in de opera”, aldus De Levita. „Behalve Carmen natuurlijk”, vult Ewbank aan.

De Levita werkte jarenlang voor theaterproducent Joop van den Ende, maar stapte daar op. „Ik wilde zelf nieuwe dingen gaan maken”, verklaart hij. Aan Carmen werkte hij meer dan vijf jaar. „Producties komen vaak te vroeg. Ik heb net zo lang gewacht tot de show echt klaar was en dat is de winst van dit project.”

De producent ontmoette Ewbank zes jaar geleden. „Ik kende zijn muziek niet, maar toen ik het hoorde wist ik dat het perfect was voor musicals.” Hij bracht zijn landgenoot in contact met Sarah Miles, die het scriptvoor de musical schreef. Samen kwamen ze tot ongeveer 25 liedjes, waarvoor de Nederlander de melodieën maakte.

„Ik luisterde niet meer echt naar de liedjes van Marco, maar in de musicalcontext kregen ze een heel nieuw leven”, vertelt Ewbank. De Waarheid en Wat Is Mijn Hart, weliswaar enigszins herschreven om het verhaal te kunnen vertellen, zitten in Carmen.

Als Ewbank normaliter een liedje schrijft, hoeft hij alleen met de zanger rekening te houden. Nu had hij een heel team en moest de rode draad van het verhaal worden vastgehouden in de muziek. „Ik heb me gerealiseerd dat ik net kom kijken in dit deel van het vak. Als ik soms dacht dat ik iets niet wilde, liet ik anderen toch even hun gang gaan. Die houding is fijn, want je geeft ruimte. Als iedereen aan de touwen trekt, gebeurt er niets.”

De Italiaans-Belgische Franco Dragone regisseert de musical en de acteurs komen uit diverse delen van de wereld. De producent heeft doelbewust niet voor grote namen gekozen. „Wel voor talent, dat zijn sporen heeft verdiend in de theaterwereld. Bijna iedereen heeft op Broadway gestaan.”

Binnen een jaar moet de productie ook op Broadway in New York staan en daarna moet de rest van de wereld worden veroverd. De voorstelling wordt in ieder land in de eigen taal opgevoerd. Het is de bedoeling dat Carmen ook Nederland aandoet. De Levita probeert niet al te veel te dromen. „Ik ben ervan overtuigd dat het materiaal goed is, maar het publiek beslist. Het kan net zo goed mis gaan als een wereldhit worden.”

Ewbank, die de smaak van het musicalwerk wel te pakken heeft, blijft ook nuchter. Visioenen van een carrière in Amerika heeft hij niet. „Ik maak graag muziek, maar ben niet zo’n planner. Ik zie wel wat er op me afkomt.” Marco Borsato hoeft niet bang te zijn dat hij zijn muzikale partner kwijtraakt. „Wat ik ook doe in het buitenland, die samenwerking verbreek ik niet. Ik zal nooit stoppen met Marco, wij zijn met elkaar verbonden.”

bron:Telegraaf

  [ # 8 ] 18 June 2007 09:58 PM
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Recensie uit San Diego:

“Carmen” at La Jolla Playhouse
by Welton Jones
San Diego Arts Articles

Without the inspired, passionate genius of Georges Bizet, “Carmen” is just another over-heated 19th Century romantic fantasy, fueled by an exotic setting and a heroine of excessive amorality.

The material can be coaxed to perform tricks — “Carmen Jones,” “Carmen: A Hip Hopera,” “Carmen on Ice” — but Bizet is always there to bail out the pygmies with a “Habanera” here, a “Toreador’s Song” there and enough steamy climaxes to satisfy the NATIONAL ENQUIRER.

Now, though, “You want climaxes?” John Ewbank seems to have asked. “I’ve got a whole trunk full of climaxes, enough for two long acts with no reprises!”

Thus the La Jolla Playhouse version of “Carmen,” with book and choreography by Sarah Miles, lyrics and vocal arrangements by AnnMarie Milazzo and 30 of those Ewbank climaxes before one is reprised. As a finale.

Given La Jolla’s reputation for flashy staging, Franco Dragone’s somber direction seems pretty routine stuff for the guy who polished all the early Cirque du Soleil shows, including the first couple in Las Vegas.

He could have used some Bizet. WE, the audience, could have too.

Instead, we get “Les Miserables”—meets—“West Side Story.” Without the turntable stage. Or the laughs.

Janien Valentine — pushy-sexy, endlessly energetic, laser-focused on the moment — makes Carmen persuasively capable of seducing any guy she chooses. And they do line up: Neal Benari as a likeable army captain, Caesar Samayoa as an especially offensive gypsy, Victor Wallace as the elegant and refined toreador and, of course, Jose — L’il Abner gone bad, as Ryan Valentine plays him.

There really aren’t any upbeat moments in Prosper Merimee’s 1845 novella. But there is the feral thrust of an irresistible predator crunching simple innocence that Bizet ratcheted into a hair-raising, cautionary, inevitable yet purging finale when order is restored.

(The splendid legacy of the opera is not just the music, either. When the final fatal knife falls, so does the curtain. In La Jolla, Jeffrey Klitz and his small but very electrified pit band must keep on sawing away at even MORE Ewbank climaxes while an interesting sand-fall effect which doesn’t work exactly right totally blunts any surviving dramatic edge.)

The highlights of this La Jolla version are dancey: a first-act frenzy for the ladies of the ensemble recalling Jerome Robbins’ “America” from “West Side Story” and a second-act opener that looks suspiciously like a TV ad for Dos Eques beer. Whatever, it’s a fine troupe of dancers.

Most of the principal guys are stuck with the old “Les Mis” trick of casting baritones and requiring them to sing tenor. Valentine and Shelley Thomas (the standard wimpy Micaela) get more singable songs (except for a Jose-Micaela duet “What Is My Heart?” that NOBODY could sing).

Klara Zieglerova’s scenery is stark and full of odd nudges, in the dim and melodramatic lighting of Christopher Akerlind, but there are concepts that trail away into vagueness, like skeletal remains, hanging corpses, hooded figures, a pool of water. Everything seems ready for some Cirque quirks but Dragone’s direction stays earthbound and even prim.

The guys get better costumes from Suzy Benzinger than do the ladies, who look suspiciously like a squad of Old Town waitresses.

What to do now?

Maybe throw out seven or eight songs, consider a unified musical style, let Micaela get angry, reconsider Carmen’s finale costume, either illuminate or discard some of the busy background milling…

And possibly rethink lines such as, “When cholera struck, she worked day and night helping the nuns, though she will deny it.” That needs more clarification than any musical has time for.

Whatever the specific steps, a basic clue to what’s wrong is the laugh Carmen gets when she asks Micaela, making her finale entrance: “Who are YOU?” At least some of the audience sympathized.

  [ # 9 ] 19 June 2007 06:39 AM
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Artikel op nieuws.nl:

Magische première voor musical Carmen in Amerika
Uitgegeven op zondag 17 juni 2007 om 18:08:14

(Novum) - De wereldpremière van de musical Carmen zaterdag in San Diego was ‘magisch’. Dat verklaart Robin de Levita, de Nederlandse producent van de Amerikaanse productie, zondag tegenover Novum Nieuws. “Alles liep zoals het moest lopen, het leek wel magie.”

Ook het publiek reageerde enthousiast op de musicalbewerking van de beroemde opera van Georges Bizet, die weer gebaseerd is op de novelle van Prosper Mérimée. “De reacties uit de zaal zijn overweldigend”, vertelt De Levita over de première en de try-outs die afgelopen week gehouden werden. “Het Amerikaanse publiek is normaal vrij afwachtend en gaat niet snel staan aan het eind van de voorstelling. Ze lopen zelfs weg als ze er niets aan vinden. Maar bij deze show zijn er iedere keer staande ovaties aan het eind en na ieder nummer wordt er geklapt en gejoeld.”

De reactie van het publiek heeft de verwachtingen van de producent overtroffen. “Als het Amerikaanse publiek staande ovaties geeft, is dat heel bijzonder. En de emotionele reacties van mensen na afloop van de show zijn ook ontzettend bijzonder om mee te maken.” Vooral aan het einde van de voorstelling over het zigeunermeisje Carmen reageerde het publiek zaterdag erg emotioneel. “Tijdens de laatste scène wordt de dode Carmen overladen met tonnen zand”, vertelt de producent. “Mensen reageerden daar zo ontzettend geëmotioneerd op. Dat was voor ons het meest bijzondere moment van de avond.”

De muziek van componist John Ewbank, die samen met De Levita voor een Nederlands tintje aan de musical zorgt, maakte ook emoties bij de makers los. “Het is heel bijzonder om je eigen muziek in het theater te horen, gespeeld door een live band en gezongen door de beste musicalartiesten die er op dit moment zijn”, vertelt De Levita namens zijn collega. Voor de musical scheef Ewbank nieuwe liedjes, maar ook nummers als ‘De waarheid’ en ‘Wat is mijn hart’ die hij eerder voor Marco Borsato schreef, zijn terug te horen in de musical.

Marco Borsato was zaterdag dan ook naar Amerika gekomen om zijn vriend en vaste tekstschrijver te steunen. Net als de vrouw van John Ewbank, presentatrice Vivian Ewbank-Reijs en de moeder van Robin de Levita, actrice Merel Laseur. Zondagavond hoopt de producent ook Amerikaanse sterren te verwelkomen in het La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego. Céline Dion, David Bowie en David Copperfield hebben hun komst toegezegd.

Carmen is nog tot en met 22 juli te zien in San Diego. Maar daar houdt het wat betreft De Levita niet op. “We hopen dat de recensies goed zijn en dat we een doorstart kunnen maken naar Broadway en misschien naar Europa.”


[Copyright 2007, Novum]

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Have you ever yearned to go, past the world you think you know,
been in thrall to the call of the beauty underneath?

  [ # 10 ] 19 June 2007 07:43 AM
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WOW! Super zeg! Heb net de twee video’s gezien op de site! De video met een stuk dans is echt geweldig. In een simpele studio, maar met zo veel emotie en passie, die dansers gaan er voor. Ben reuze benieuwd hoe dit op een podium overkomt. Volgens mij een hoogtepunt.

In de andere video zag ik Claudia de Graaf aan het werk. Wat een stem heeft ze. Ik was het bijna vergeten, maar weet het meteen weer! 😉 Zat meteen te denken, wellicht een Scaramouche in We will rock you als deze show in Nederland komt? 😉

  [ # 11 ] 19 June 2007 08:17 AM
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DeLevita:

Als het Amerikaanse publiek staande ovaties geeft, is dat heel bijzonder.

In mijn ervaring is dit helemaal niet zo. Het Amerikaanse publiek staat er juist om bekend dat ze voor het minste of geringste opstaan en joelen. Net Nederlanders, maar dan nog met een extra vette laag er boven op. Iedereen die wel eens een theatervoorstelling op Broadway of soms zelfs een filmvoorstelling in New York heeft meegemaakt zal dit kunnen beamen.

  [ # 12 ] 19 June 2007 07:44 PM
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Niet erg positief en dat is zacht uitgedrukt ... Recensie uit de San Diego Union Tribune onder de titel ; ‘Carmen’s’ a mess (and that’s being kind)

By Anne Marie Welsh

As Disney’s “Aida” is to Verdi’s great opera, so Franco Dragone’s “Carmen” is to the beloved Bizet classic: a tacky travesty.
Director Dragone, celebrated for his Cirque du Soleil spectacles and such Vegas extravaganzas as Celine Dion’s “A New Day . . . ,” launched the La Jolla Playhouse season Sunday with the première of this mutant “Carmen,” its few arresting images undercut by a bland pop score, a relentlessly strident delivery and a wince-inducing book and lyrics.
Both Janien Valentine, who makes a feral femme fatale of Carmen, and Ryan Silverman, who serves and suffers as her doomed lover Jose, possess natural charisma and tremendous raw talent. But they’ve been pumped up into bellowing plastic sex dolls here.
Whether executing gymnastic choreography that recalls the worst excesses of Maurice Bejart and his Ballet of the 20th Century, or belting the swelling, synthetic melodies of John Ewbank’s power ballads, these two — and dozens more in the hardworking cast — muscle about the stage with mind-numbing, foot-stomping insistence. 
The sun never shines in the Spain depicted in Klara Zieglerova’s massive gray set and lighting designer Christopher Akerlind’s ever-stormy sky. And rightly so, for there’s neither lyricism nor variety in Ewbank’s music and Sarah Miles’ crude, frontal choreography, all of it executed with drill-like precision and unmotivated fervor.
Collaborators Miles (book and choreography), Ewbank (music) and AnnMarie Milazzo (lyrics) had already gathered before Dragone was brought onto the scene by former La Jolla Playhouse artistic director Des McAnuff.
For all its claims to novelty, the show’s a throwback to the 1980s when, after “Cats,” melodramatic “poperettas” from Europe held the day on Broadway. Maybe this bombastic genre still has a shot on the Great White Way; many in the opening night audience roared their approval throughout.
Though “Carmen” goes back only to the mid-19th century when Prosper Merimee penned the story, it’s become an archetype since Bizet’s librettists transformed it for his once scandalous, now very popular 1875 opera. Uncountable ballet, modern dance and film adaptations have been created since, and the role of the free-spirited, sexually liberated Gypsy has drawn every mezzo-soprano of note, including a bluesy Dorothy Dandridge in the film “Carmen Jones.”
Ballerinas Maya Plisetskaya, Alicia Alonso and Zizi Jeanmarie (with Mikhail Baryshnikov as Don Jose) have danced “Carmen” ballets, while great flamenco artists have appeared in spinoffs, notably in the brilliantly seductive life-imitates-art Carlos Saura film with Antonio Gades and Laura del Sol.
Like Saura, the Playhouse collaborators returned to Merimee for back story. The musical’s book suggests that as underdogs in imperial Spain — Jose is Basque, Carmen a Gypsy — their political kinship combines with their sexual allure to bring them together. Such connections are stated at the Playhouse, not dramatized, however.
Jose’s role has been amplified, and in the cast, Silverman fares best dramatically. He veers from volcanic fury to tenderness in the early scenes and slowly succumbs to sexual obsession — and, ultimately, madness — that will undo him. Though his songs — “Jose’s Freedom,” for instance — are no more nuanced than the others, his strong tenor has texture and is still capable of subtlety. He could sing Sondheim; one hopes he will.
As Carmen, Valentine shows a bit of emotional dimension and humor in the tobacco factory scene, but elsewhere, belting and heaving breasts carry the day. This fearless performer gets manhandled in a gang-rape and soaked in a meant-to-be-erotic pool scene. She dances with athleticism and unstoppable energy that are breathtaking and exhausting. She deserves better material to develop her undeniable gifts.
AdvertisementBy comparison, the bullfighter Escamillo (Victor Wallace channeling Fabio), the girlfriend Mercedes (Natalia Zisa as valley girl) and the officer Zuniga (Neal Benari) have little to do and, perhaps mercifully, little to sing.
After her clever and relatively simple work on “Jersey Boys,” designer Zieglerova here creates a playing area — a bullring writ large — in which the faux granite walls can extend into the flies; at such moments, the action seems to unfold inside a cistern. The symbolic decor includes a hovering silver bull with a tongue of blood like something out of Martha Graham’s Greek works and a gargoyle on a mammoth crucifix. A priest kisses the cross while Jose’s rejected wife warbles on about how much the soldier needs her; meanwhile on a platform above her head, the philandering mate strokes his lover, Carmen.
Too much of the three-hour evening hovers in this realm of the ludicrous and literal, dipping and ultimately drowning in a pool of visual and musical clichés.

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‘Once upon a time, lived a Princess and a Prince in Kingdoms Gold and Blue’

http://www.theaterverslagen.blogspot.nl

  [ # 13 ] 20 June 2007 07:31 AM
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Bob Verini van Variety heeft weinig positiefs te melden

Toreador, be on your guard. Prosper Merimee’s novella “Carmen” has seen numerous adaptations for the stage, opera, film and ballet, and seemingly every previous version has been ransacked for the hodgepodge of a musical now in its La Jolla world premiere. Relying on flamboyant visuals and a score pummeling us into submission to disguise the largely incoherent plot and stock characters right out of the “Les Miz” playbook, this is not your father’s “Carmen,” though in its endless stream of power ballads and unfocused, moony romanticism, it may well be your little sister’s.
On a “magic circle” evidently borrowed from Peter Brook’s “Tragedie de Carmen,” helmer Franco Dragone works with Salvador Dali on his shoulder to seize every opportunity to go over the top, or over the big top given his history as Cirque du Soleil impresario. Some of the imagery is stunning, notably act two’s candlelit opening and sand-streaming finale, as well as the full-stage flurry of paper tobacco leaves defining Carmen’s factory. Some is downright risible: a hanging corpse that no one mentions; a gargoyle atop a giant crucifix. If a supine skeleton isn’t enough to announce that doom is near, rest assured a black-clad duenna is nearby.

Overall it’s a case of throwing everything plus the kitchen sink—and the key syllable there is “kitsch”—at a trite passion and revenge tale that’s complicated without being complex and never makes a lick of sense.

When we first meet Don Jose (Ryan Silverman), he’s assaulting some random fellow, a habit he follows with numbing regularity. “God will forgive you,” sings pious, long-suffering wife Micaela (Shelley Thomas), though as his body count mounts it seems increasingly unlikely. Why so angry? Something about his Basque stock and absent father: “I’m a thief of my innocence,” Silverman sings powerfully, if in shaky pitch at the top register. “Rage has swallowed me whole but I want back my soul.”

Conscripted as his punishment and posted to Seville, he encounters—who else—the cigar-rolling, free-spirited gypsy Carmen (Janien Valentine), introduced taking a clothed full-body bath downstage in proud defiance of her body miking. “Freedom lives inside of me,” warbles the Kelly Clarkson look- and sound-alike. “I will not bow, beg, plead or borrow,” though she does all four numerous times by tuner’s end; one learns quickly that listening too closely to AnnMarie Milazzo’s lyrics yields more confusion than rewards.

Most versions keep a tight grip, as Merimee did, on the two hapless lovers with intertwined destinies. Oddly, librettist Sarah Miles drops the Basque/gypsy “otherness” that would separate Jose and Carmen from the rest of the pack and instead gives equal time to Escamillo (Victor Wallace), the saturnine matador; Zuniga (Neal Benari), the saturnine officer; and Garcia (Caesar Samayoa), Carmen’s saturnine bandit husband—and that’s at least two saturnine romantic foils too many. Tangential to the storytelling, each bleats his love for Carmen in song after indistinguishable song with interchangeable lyrics.

The story galumphs along with plenty of heavy-handed rhyme but little reason and no one to care about or even like, Carmen included. Merimee’s gypsy is as modern as Mother Courage, a tough bird with her eye on the main chance, a fatalist contemptuous of the notions of morality and pure love. What a heroine of a musical drama she’d make!

But Miles insists on shoving this classically ambiguous figure into the standard musical-comedy meat grinder to make her sympathetic and “explain” her, so her actions from page to page, sometimes within a single scene, are inconsistent and baffling. Now she’s scornful, now sultry, now sincere and back to scornful again. Can she love at all? Sometimes she says yes, sometimes no. Even Valentine’s prodigious talents as actress, singer and dancer can’t find a throughline for this role.

Still, many audiences won’t notice or care, carried as they are on an ocean of sound. “Carmen” sings with the soul of a pop star (not meant as a compliment). Each song has a character planting his feet and announcing his current emotional state using every bit of vocal technique at his command, abetted by sudden key changes and volume at full blast. (A future episode of “American Idol” featuring “Carmen Night” would offer no dearth of competitor selections.) Some of John Ewbank’s music seems pleasant and even catchy at first hearing, but nearly three hours of exhausting ballads written, sung and orchestrated to evoke audience whooping but never moving the story forward come to feel like an assault.

It’s an assault on the ear rather more so than the eye, which is kept contented by Klara Zieglerova’s set design applying fluid and imaginative variations to a semicircular stone arena, and by Christopher Akerlind’s sending a vast array of clouds on to the cyclorama and “God-fingers” to highlight each performer in streams of brilliant light.

One rarely encounters a “book and choreography by” credit, and Miles’ dances are as tight and varied as her libretto is flaccid. She brings in a little ballet here, a little flamenco there and a whole lot of genuine heat; act two opens, along with that brilliant candlelight display, with a fiesta scene that actually feels like a real party, not a staged mass of fake bonhomie. If there seem to be too many challenge dances a la “America” in “West Side Story,” at least each is executed with commitment.

Best of all, none of the dances goes on too long, and all leave one wanting more. The same can’t be said for the rest of this “Carmen,” which needs some radical blue-penciling and a tougher editorial eye if it’s to move along the development trail unscathed.

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‘Once upon a time, lived a Princess and a Prince in Kingdoms Gold and Blue’

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  [ # 14 ] 20 June 2007 07:33 AM
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Net als Charles McNulty van de LA Times die kopt ; ‘Carmen’: It’s got flash and fervor but, sadly, no substance

Married folks, beware: Carmen’s back in town, brazenly trailing her scarf on the floor as she sizes up her next male victim. But you’ll never believe what she’s managed to do this time. That little hussy has unloaded the only thing worth salvaging in her life, Georges Bizet’s irresistible score. OK, maybe the music has become too familiar, piped into tapas restaurants and used to peddle products on TV. But to replace it with a pop song cycle that mixes the schmaltz of Céline Dion with the galaxy-roaming silliness of John Tesh – well, the tragic heroine has finally gone too far!

“Straight to video” isn’t an option for theatrical offerings of dubious merit. But La Jolla Playhouse’s newfangled “Carmen,” directed by Franco Dragone, one of the masterminds behind Cirque du Soleil, inspires a coinage of its own: “straight to Vegas,” which is where this extravagant though eminently disposable musical should be sent. With any luck, it’ll end up in the basement of a hotel-casino, where the bells and buzzes of slot machines will drown out its sentimental tidal surges.

If slick packaging and soap-opera accessibility are all you ask for in a musical, then you might think I’m a complete crank for knocking Dragone’s flashy production, which had its world premiere Sunday. There’s nothing inherently wrong with spectacle, even if the budget (though enviable for most regional theater) allows for only a tiny fraction of the dazzle Cirque du Soleil has made its spare-no-expense specialty. And melodrama, though wrongly derided, can be a real kick when handled with originality.

What’s more, this isn’t a case of putting a classic on a pedestal. “Carmen,” overdone and overripe, is also overdue for renewal.

The problem – and it’s one that could set musical theater back 20 years to the trumped-up blandness of Andrew Lloyd Webber – lies in the creative team’s wallowing in theatrical clichés. With a hyperventilating book by Sarah Miles (who also serves, strange as it sounds, as the show’s choreographer), supermarket music by John Ewbank and greeting-card lyrics by AnnMarie Milazzo, this “Carmen” isn’t so much a fresh look at the 1845 Prosper Mérimée novella that gave rise to one of the most popular operas ever – it’s more of a three-dimensional velvet painting version targeted to the same audience that kept Elton John and Tim Rice’s “Aida” afloat for more than four years on Broadway despite the numerous critical pans it received.

There’s no point in pressing the case with examples of Milazzo’s tone-deaf lyricism. (OK, just one from an early scene setting up Carmen’s character: “If I am from the devil’s loins / And if I really do steal coins / And I’m a thief and I bring grief / Why are you gawking?”) The more troubling concern is the discrepancy between the piece’s bumbling conception and its glitzy execution.

Dragone’s staging has the nonstop momentum of a music video in which boredom is banished by a visual bombardment that careens from the sexual to the surreal. Amid all the flamenco-inflected dirty dancing, there’s plenty to tickle your unconscious (or at least make you scratch your head), including a skeleton, a mysterious veiled woman, a hanged man and a gored bull streaming a red ribbon.

Sultry atmospherics

Christopher Akerlind’s dramatic lighting intensifies the sultry atmospherics of Klara Zieglerova’s set, with spotlights and enough candles for a Liberace concert piercing the spooky darkness. And Suzy Benzinger’s body-clinging costumes lend the shadowy escapades an erotic charge.

As Carmen, Janien Valentine is a petite redhead siren with a rousing voice and enough seductiveness for a whole chorus of Spanish gypsies. She has a pop-star quality that hijacks attention from whatever crowded scene she might be in, and one would like to see what she could do with material that calls for less coarse showmanship.

In the role of José, the unhappily wedded sergeant who succumbs to Carmen’s tantalizing charms and eventually his own spiraling jealousy, Ryan Silverman makes it possible to relate to his character as both a sensitive heartthrob and a tragic chump.

No one else in the large cast comes into satisfying focus. But all of the performers have a field day with the flourishes of their colorful, carousing parts. Subtlety is out the windowas hands are allowed to fly up in paroxysms of whatever emotion is buffeting them at the moment. The fervor at times is as cyclonic as the electronic sound flowing from the orchestra pit. Imagine “West Side Story” transplanted to a 19th century Spain that’s a combination of “Zorba” and the Wild West. The very idea is exhausting.

The production, in short, does back-flips to mesmerize. You can call this “Carmen” many things, but boring wouldn’t top the list.

Fortunately, English, with its bounteous capacity for nuance, has a word that describes just this kind of sensationalism – “meretricious,” which Webster’s handily defines as “exhibiting synthetic or spurious attractions.”

Art, let us not forget, is more than artistry. It’s vision. When artists dream, new contours of reality come into view.

Dragone and company, on the other hand, simply manipulate old ways of seeing, marshaling a parade of hackneyed imagery, shopworn gestures and other forms of trickery from the dead past.

Their goal is diversion, which is indeed a fine one, but when a nonprofit institution invests these kinds of resources, you expect more substance, less flimflam.

No feminist makeover

Miles, whose thudding writing technique matches her foot-stomping choreography, approaches the Carmen story from a perspective that’s sympathetic to the character’s lot as a woman and minority outcast. No argument there.

But Miles doesn’t exactly give Carmen a feminist makeover. The interpretation is merely shellacked on, like a dime-store cosmetic. Carmen is still the male fantasy vixen, amassing lovers, smuggling bling and destroying marriages and careers, but at least now she has an apologist who “gets” her.

Dragone, meanwhile, wants only to swim in luxuriant passions. Clearly he’d rather have his librettist-choreographer provide more stomp than sociological explanations. He knows what sells in the commercial theater. And so he sets out to entrance us rather than encourage us to think.

   Handtekening   

‘Once upon a time, lived a Princess and a Prince in Kingdoms Gold and Blue’

http://www.theaterverslagen.blogspot.nl

  [ # 15 ] 20 June 2007 02:57 PM
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Dit zijn volgens mij geen recensies waarmee je op Broadway beland. Alhoewel, The Pirate Queen, Lestat, Seussical, etc etc etc…

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