Carmen as a Ballet
Bizet’s original score birthed several ballet productions of Carmen. Roland Petit’s Carmen in 1949 for the Ballets de Paris was the first time the score was used in full. Petit’s version of the story followed Mérimée’s original plotline closer than Bizet, but many of the Gypsy elements were removed.
Other composers also developed the score into orchestral suites, including Rodion Shchedrin’s “Carmen – Suite for Strings and Percussion.” Shchedrin’s suite was originally composed for Alberto Alonso’s one-act Carmen Suite in 1967 at Bolshoi Ballet, but it has since been featured in many other ballets inspired by Carmen.
In 1972, Boston Ballet staged Carmen for a benefit performance choreographed by former Resident Choreographer Samuel Kurkjian using Shchedrin’s suite. The Company also performed Dace Dindonis’ Carmen (Variations) in 1997 with a different arrangement of Bizet’s score.
Jorma Elo’s Carmen
Resident Choreographer JORMA ELO’s modern adaptation of Carmen breaks the typical mold of the story.
When his Carmen premiered in 2006, it was unlike any other adaptation seen before. Elo created a contemporary interpretation of the classic story, changing the setting from 19th-century Spain to the high-fashion world of the 21st century. “This is a stylish Carmen with an edge” says Artistic Director Mikko Nissinen. “By bringing the setting into the chic 21st century, we produced the classic story through contemporary dance language in a stimulating and visually stunning way that resonates with today’s people and with our audiences.”
Instead of a factory worker, Carmen is a supermodel, and Don José is a businessman rather than a soldier-turned-robber. The young bullfighter in Mérimée’s novella is now a Formula One racecar driver, and the intense love triangle plays out on a fashion runway, not the cobbled streets of Seville.
While the ballet stays true to the original plot, with Carmen dying at the hands of Don José after she betrays him for Escamillo, Elo also incorporated themes of celebrity and wealth for a contemporary audience.
After the world premiere, Elo further developed the ballet, and in 2009, Boston Ballet presented Jorma Elo’s Carmen/Illusions. BOSTON HERALD praised Elo’s imaginative twist as “an artistic feast.”
This season, Elo’s dynamic take on the fiery antiheroine returns to the stage as part of CARMEN, a program celebrating the creativity, beauty, and power of women. The production seeks to explore the universal themes of passion, jealousy, and betrayal in an updated context.
“As a creator and choreographer, I am thrilled to revisit Carmen with its iconic music and heart-wrenching story,” said Resident Choreographer Jorma Elo. “Reworking the choreography is an exciting collaborative effort with the dancers. Audiences will experience a dramatic, deep, and expressive world come to life by Boston Ballet’s artists in my interpretation of Carmen.”