Carmen at the Colón: A slightly dim way to begin
By Melanie Henderson
It is always a rather exciting time of year when the Colón Theatre re-opens its grand curtain. First pick on the ballet menu this season is this brand-new take on Bizet’s 19th century classic opera, crafted by very capable hands of choreographer Mauricio Wainrot.
Thinking back to strong past references such as Bolshoi's 1960s make, to more modern and diverse interpretations such as Matthew Bourne's "Car Man," the story of Carmen is most certainly not ballet-deprived.
Polka dots, wide ruched skirts and red flowers were indeed at the ready, although the costumes put together by Carlos Gallardo and his team overall failed to strike the passion that the story tries to tell. There was a kind of strange melange in dressing style; with the ladies wearing a mixture of gypsy ruffle skirts and tailored 40s style World War II-like dresses, the message sent across was a tad confusing.
There were however one or two dresses that particularly stood out: that of Karina Olmedo, a simplistic purple dress, that complimented her graceful moves on stage. Flashbacks of Wainrot's Carmen for the Winnipeg Royal Ballet in 2007 came back, as a similar costume was used. Carmen herself (Silvina Perillo) also wore a few floral delights, leading to the particularly pleasant red dress which marked her entrance toward the end of the show.
The men had a somewhat uninspiring set of costumes. Principle dancer Juan Pablo Ledo, at times looked bulky, particularly in his khaki tight-fitted suit, which made any kind of batterie or general jumps executed look like hard-work and heavy. Any pas de bourrés he made, where he had his back to the audience looked immensely robotic.
Even still, it wasn’t just the costumes that caused for heavy-footed dancing by the male members of the cast. Federico Fernández (Escamillo) is undoubtedly a talented dancer, although he, Pablo Ledo and Vagram Ambartsoumian (Captain Zuñiga) gave a particularly lacklustre performance. In addition, most of the sweep-over boxy haircuts on the male cast, added a rather unflattering touch to their appearance.
In terms of the dancing, Olmedo’s precision and grace caught everyone’s attention as 'Destino' from the get-go. Her presence on stage is somewhat striking, but she did not by any means overshadow Silvina Perillo who most certainly dominated the stage in her own right as Carmen. The two together performed a fantastic face-off, carried out with style and individual elegance.
One of the things that dampened down the electricity on stage was the dimness of the lights throughout the show. Yellowy intermittent glimmers hovered over the cast, presumably to represent Andalucian sun, however, Eli Sirlin’s choice of lighting left little to be desired.
The blunt illumination kind of flattened the performance, making it a struggle to watch –particularly due to the fact that the performance is an hour-and-a-half long with no interval. The Colón of course boasts beautiful spider and tiered chandeliers across the whole theatre, illuminating the grandeur that is the inside of the building, but one cannot deny that the lighting in the place overall, is in fact, pretty dim.
Oftentimes at the Opera, or plays performed in a language differing from the country's first language, screens are added to display subtitles. At the Ballet, it's not often that common. Screens are usually an obstruction, but how obstructive they are to the action normally depends on their placement. In this production, a three-panel semi-circular screen rose above the dancing, usually thwarting the flow of the performance, rather than adding anything overtly interesting. Digital images of roses and red and white polka dots mainly occupied the giant screens, which clearly proved their pointlessness.
Aside from the lighting, the scenery was somewhat interesting. Representing a bullring, the circular format on stage made for the minimalistic props to go around the action. Some small trucks were rolled on, but nothing too hectic. The most effectual addition to the setting was unequivocally, the big red bull backdrop, by far.
Bizet’s classic score is undeniably electric, however, considering that it is an Opera in its own right – and a very famous one at that - the stripping away of the voices already stipulates cause for a downgrade, unless cleverly arranged.
Luis Gorelik put together some of the most famous parts of Bizet’s original score with added compositions why Isaac Albéniz and Joaquín Turina. The mix was not favourable, however, as lot of it came out rather colour-less. That, paired with the dancing made for an even more not-so-perfect match, causing for pause, and at times life-less performance by the cast as a whole. The slow pace of the trumpeted Bizet dragged back a lot of the fiery Spanish passion that was certainly well-wished for.
Notable performances can be attributed to Maricel de Mitri who played Micaela and the two leading ladies previously mentioned.
The real highlights of the show were the opening and closing sequences to the performance. Some pas de deux selections proved their worth, as Wainrots choreography was at many times a visual treat, but then unfortunately it was sometimes brought down by sloppy out-of-time footwork.
Overall, not a terrible start to the season – The Stable Ballet Company led by master director Lidia Segni surely does present a talented cast – however, the show really did not start off the season with a bang.
The Stable Ballet company of the Colón will be presenting Carmen over a five-show run. Performances are on Tuesday April 3, Wednesday April 4, and Saturday April 7 at 8.30 pm with the final show on Sunday April 8.
Tickets start at $30 and can be purchased at the Teatro Colón box office along Tucumán 1171 or by calling 4378-7109, from Monday to Saturday between 10 am and 8 pm and on Sundays from 10 am to 5 pm. Alternatively, tickets can be purchased online through the theatre’s website at: www.teatrocolon.org.ar.