Deze is al een stuk positiever…. maar het wordt wel 1 tegen 100 op deze manier.
Bold, noisy ‘Carmen’ is visually stunning
By: PAM KRAGEN Staff Writer
In a world premiere musical that’s loud, sexy and visually stunning, Prosper Merimee’s 19th-century Gypsy heroine “Carmen” dances boldly into the 21st century.
Spectacularly staged at the La Jolla Playhouse by longtime Cirque du Soleil visionary Franco Dragone, “Carmen” takes a dark look at the love triangle saga of the seductive cigarette-factory worker Carmen, her possessive soldier/lover Jose and her matador ideal, Escamillo. The musical pops with visual splendor and fiery, floor-pounding flamenco dancing. Your ears may pop, too, with the relentlessly high volume of the music.
Conceived, written and choreographed by Sarah Miles, this version of “Carmen” draws more from Merimee’s original novella than the much-better-known opera version by Bizet. Here, we learn more about Jose’s Basque heritage and how he landed (against his will) in the Spanish army as punishment for a crime; we get to know better Jose’s abandoned-but-adoring wife, Micaela, and Carmen’s violent smuggler husband, Garcia; we see the suffering of Zuniga, the older Army captain who also loves Carmen; and we travel through the whole of Spain as the tragedy gradually unfolds.
Dutch composer John Ewbank composed the 28-song score, and nestled within its overgenerous folds are a half dozen truly terrific numbers, including the vibrant Spanish-tinged ensemble number “Tavern Dance,” Carmen’s ode to the opposite sex “Ah Men,” the anthemic “Freedom Is Now,” Jose’s “To Say Goodbye,” Carmen and Jose’s life-affirming “A Free Man Today” and Micaela’s “The Letter.” Ewbank creates catchy, ear-pleasing melodies with rich, rising bridges and interesting key changes, though too many of the songs finish too big and too loud. There’s also a few clunkers, like the cheesy soldier’s anthem “God Will Make Us Men.” Interestingly, the women’s numbers are far more interesting than the men’s, and Annemarie Milazzo’s lyrics don’t quite equal the poetry of Dragone’s staging.
Miles’ book is minimal, allowing the storytelling to be told mostly through the songs, dance and the vibrant pictures Dragone paints onstage. Although he’s best known for his dreamy, mysterious (and plotless) Cirque shows in Las Vegas, Dragone’s “Carmen” is clear, plot-centered and linear in style.
Bold imagery and vibrant color are used by Dragone to evoke emotions and plot themes. A gold-filigreed bull’s head (symbolic of Escamillo’s bullfighting and the dogged stubbornness of the three central characters) dominates as a central element, and Klara Zieglerova’s imposing double-deck, stone-wall set has weight, gravitas and immense versatility. Death (in the form of skeletons, ghostly figures, bodies and gravestones) is an ever-present force in Dragone’s storytelling——hanging overhead, lurking in the shadows or walking just steps behind the story’s fateful players. And he paints the stage with vivid hues of blood red, shimmering gold and foreboding black.
Several eye-popping tableaux, lit luminously by Christopher Akerlind, take your breath away——like the cigarette factory, where hundreds of gold-tinted leaves flutter down from the ceiling, or the finale, where the fateful sands of the hourglass run out in an epic column. Dragone’s eye never falters, though the story is told with almost deadly seriousness throughout.
Miles’ choreography is an essential element of the storytelling. There’s sensual, tug-of-war ballet between Carmen and Jose, an acrobatic rape scene, a flamenco dance-off between Carmen and her rival, Juanita, a lively, floor-stomping tavern celebration in the second act (led by the marvelously talented Rocio Ponce) and the animal-like fawning of the soldiers when Carmen makes her first entrance.
Finding actors who can sing the challenging score, dance flamenco, do acrobatics and be convincing Spaniards is a tall order. Fortunately the casting is spot-on with Janien Valentine as Carmen. She’s got star power, a strong, ear-pleasing, multi-octave voice; a fluid, sensual physicality; confidence; fire; and surprising acrobatic ability. Her Carmen is bold, hardened, worn down by disappointment and confident in her abilities at manipulating men. She’s not misunderstood but a product of her harsh environment.
Ryan Silverman is dashing, energetic and in good voice as the troubled Jose, who throws everything away for Carmen, then takes revenge when she tires of his possessiveness. Victor Wallace underplays his role as the surprisingly gentle-natured (but not especially Spanish) bullfighter Escamillo. He sings mostly well in the underwritten role and he moves with the grace of a dancer, but his freakishly artificial wig needs a serious rethinking. Shelley Thomas is graceful and gentle as Micaela, Neal Benari brings a war-weariness to the older captain, Zuniga, and Shannon Lewis is proud and defiant as Juanita.
“Carmen” runs two hours, 45 minutes, with intermission and would be stronger if some of its sound-alike songs were cut. It would be even more interesting to see the imaginative Dragone examine the characters’ emotions in nontraditional ways (couldn’t Jose’s blossoming love be told with the soaring grace of aerialists? Couldn’t Carmen’s tarot-card reading incorporate some spooky visualizations of fate, life and death?). For a new musical, “Carmen” is in strong shape, though it could use some tightening and a lot less volume. But as a modern theatrical creation, Dragone’s “Carmen” is a breath of fresh air.