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Suite Ballet Carmen to be revived in Saigon

By Bradley Winterton

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HCMC- The HCMC Ballet, Symphony Orchestra and Opera (HBSO) are particularly happy to announce the revival of their popular ballet triple-bill, of which the main item is Suite Ballet Carmen. It will be performed in the Saigon Opera House on May 13, 2022, beginning at 8.00 p.m.

Suite Ballet Carmen will occupy the entire second half of the evening. The first half will consist of a short item, Falling Angels, followed by a longer piece, Depaysement.

Falling Angels questions the traditional attributes of male and female, strength and passivity and only lasts a few minutes. Choreography is by Nguyen Phuc Hung and the dancers are Do Hoang Khang Ninh and Sung A. Lung.

The music is by Eric Whitacre, the Californian composer of popular music such as the March of the Machines, Slow and Sexy, and Coming In Waves.

“Depaysement” means “disorientation” in French. The work involves eight dancers, four women and four men, and uses music by Satie, Beethoven, Chopin, Faure and Albinoni.

The work was originally created by Julien Guerin. Formerly a dancer with Les Ballets de Monte-carlo, he continues to work with them as a choreographer, in addition to choreographing work in Paris, Lyon and Avignon.

Depaysement uses often well-known music to create a flowing series of dances in which the dancers adopt ever-new configurations. The projected scenery is hugely effective, and the lighting picks out the performers with unfailing accuracy.

A Chopin nocturne, a Satie “Gnossienne” item, Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, an Improvisation by Faure, and Albinoni’s famous Adagio make up the musical palette for this sophisticated work.

Rodion Shchedrin is a Russian composer who currently divides his time between Moscow and Munich. He has composed a huge amount of music, from operas and ballets to suites and concertos, but his best-known piece outside Russia is Suite Ballet Carmen.

The idea originated in 1964 when Shchedrin’s wife, a ballerina, suggested a ballet based in Bizet’s famous opera Carmen. Shostakovich was approached, as was Khachaturian, but both declined. So the task fell to her husband.

When the Cuban National Ballet visited Moscow in 1966, its choreographer, Alberto Alonso was approached with the idea of a ballet based on Carmen. He developed a performance scenario and Shchedrin again agreed to attempt to write the music.

But he found it impossible to follow the story without constantly thinking of Bizet’s sensational score. So he decided on a suite for strings and timpani that used Bizet’s famous melodies, but in a toned-down, impressionistic style. Thus Suite Ballet Carmen was born.

It received its premier in Moscow – only for it to be banned as too sexy and insulting to Bizet by the Ministry of Culture. Only the intervention of Shostakovich, who argued in favour of the ballet, led to the ban eventually being lifted.

In Saigon we will see repeated the staging so successfully created by People’s Artist Kim Quy, following Alonso’s original choreography.

Carmen will be danced, as previously, by Nguyen Thu Trang and her would-be lover Don Jose by Ho Phi Diep.

A major feature of this Shchedrin / Alonso version is the figure of Fate, or Death, who circles the doomed characters in the final scene. This will be danced by Thach Hieu Lang.

This re-creation of Suite Ballet Carmen is the re-staging of one of HBSO’s greatest dance successes. Central to this success is the Spanish setting, with a giant bull’s head overlooking the action. There is no doubt whatsoever that Suite Ballet Carmen is the crowning glory of this triple-bill.

Ticket prices are VND400,000 to VND750,000, with VND80,000 for students

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