Georges Bizet – Rodion Shchedrin

Carmen Suite

ballet in one act

Age 12+

Dates

Libretto: People’s Artist of the USSR and Belarus, laureate of the State Prize of the Republic of Belarus Valentin Elizariev based on Alexander Blok’s cycle of poems Carmen
Choreography and staging: People’s Artist of the USSR and Belarus, laureate of the State Prize of the Republic of Belarus Valentin Elizariev
Musical director: People’s Artist of the USSR, laureate of the State Prize of the Republic of Belarus Yaroslav Voshchak
Musical director of the revival: People’s Artist of Belarus, laureate of the State Prize of the Republic of Belarus Alexander Anissimov
Designer: People’s Artist of Ukraine, laureate of the State Prize of Ukraine Eugene Lysik
Lighting designer: Nina Ivankina
Conductors: Honoured Art Worker of the Republic of Belarus Nikolai Koliadko, Aleh Lessoun

Running time: 50 minutes
Premiere: 30 March 1974
Revival premiere: 24 April 2019

12

Should one mention that Carmen Suite is a choreographic version of the famous opera? The plot of the well-known novel by Prosper Mérimée which is disclosed in four acts in the opera, is shortened only to one act in the ballet, only the most important things are left. The Ballet is the essence of the plot and music composed by Georges Bizet. The original idea of a ballet based on an opera belongs to Maya Plisetskaya. She carried a dream-image of Carmen dancing to the music of Georges Bizet throughout all her career. Maya’s dream was strong enough to captivate Rodion Shchedrin – the composer who wrote a wonderful transcription of Bizet’s music, and Alicia Alonso – a Cuban choreographer who made the libretto and the choreography of “Carmen Suite”. As a result, a marvelous ballet was created at the Bolshoi Theatre, Maya Plisetskaya being the main character. In Belarus “Carmen Suite” was first staged in 1974, the original libretto and choreography being written by Valentin Elizariev. The creators of the belorussian version of the play moved even further away from the secondary plotlines and characters, mundane details and national characteristics of the heroes, but concentrated mostly on the internal aspect of Carmen’s drama…
“Carmen” without Bizet’s music will probably always be a disappointment, because our memory is strongly connected with the musical images of the immortal opera. That’s why an idea to create a transcription has appeared… 
Having chosen the genre one had to think about the tools – to decide which symphony orchestra instruments could compensate the lack of human voices; which of them could accentuate the evident choreographic character of Bizet’s music. To my mind, only the string instruments could have solved the first problem, while the percussion instruments – the second one. Thus the orchestra was made up of string and percussion instruments. 
The score of “Carmen” is one of the most perfect ones in the music history. And it is not only about the amazing delicacy of music, it’s style, excellent part leading, or the unique in musical literature “prudence” and “economy”, but also about it keeping up to all the typical opera peculiarities. It is a wonderful example of the perfect understanding of all the genre rules!
Bizet’s orchestra is transparent and flexible. The virtuosic use of natural overtones of the string instruments helps the singers to “present” their voices to the audience. This typical feature of “opera”-score was another argument to creating the transcription. The mechanic rendering of the voice role onto one or another instrument would have ruined the harmony of the score and all the delicacy of Bizet’s musical logic. 
Opera and ballet are the forms of art which undoubtfully stand very close to each other; but nevertheless each of them has its own rules. The ballet orchestra should, to my mind, sound “hotter” than the opera one. Its aim is to give more information than the opera orchestra does. Forgive me the comparison, but the “gesticulation” of music in ballet should be sharper and more noticeable. 
I was extremely interested when working on the ballet score. I wanted to use all the virtuosic possibilities of the chosen instruments. Only our audience is to judge whether we’ve succeded or not.
Composer Rodion Shchedrin

The melodramatic plot of the novel by Mérimée has acquired both tragic and philosophical generalization in Bizet’s opera. This very lirico-tragic essense of the music written by Bizet has found its reflection in the Shchedrin’s transcription. We have strived to preserve it in our version of the ballet. 
The Suite is a number of scenes from Carmen’s life, or, to be more precise, from her spiritual destiny. Thanks to the conventionality of the ballet, the scenes are changing easily and quickly showing the things that happen both in Carmen’s everyday life and in her inner world. 
She is neither a vamp, nor a femme fatale! We are more interested in her inner beauty, in her solid and uncompromising nature. 
Alexander Blok wrote about Carmen: “You are the law yourself; you’re flying, passing by me to some unknown stars, not knowing any orbits”. The music by Bizet and Shchedrin reflect the flight of the free Carmen towards her love, happiness and.. death. 
Conductor Yaroslav Voshchak

For few years already I’ve been enchanted by the music of “Carmen Suite”. My admiration became love when I closely studied the score by Rodion Shchedrin. Time does not make Prosper Mérimée’s novel or Georges Bizet’s music older; it only opens the new planes of Carmen’s image, while the contemporaries find some important for them problems and thoughts. Shchedrin using the original material has created a wonderful ballet suite, reflecting the delicate details of the orchestra palett. 
While listening to this music, I created my own Carmen, very different from the Carmen in other plays. She is not only a remarkable woman, proud and uncompromising, not only the symbol of love. She is the anthem of pure, honest, burning, demanding love, the symbol of love soaring high above. And none of the men she’d met was able to give her that kind of love. Carmen is not a doll, not a pretty toy, and not a hustler. Love is the sense of her life. And nobody could evaluate and understand her inner world, hidden behind gorgeus beauty. 
José loved Carmen passionately. This love had changed the rude and narrow-minded soldier, opened aesthetic pleasures for him, but very soon his embrace turned into chains for her. Being flushed by his feelngs, José doesn’t even try to understand Carmen. He begins to love not her, but his feelings to her…
She could have fallen in love with Torero who was not indifferent to her beauty as well. But Torero – exquisite and gallant, gorgeous and fearlass – is actually lazy, hard on the inside; he is unable to fight for love. And of course, demanding and proud Carmen cannot love a man like that. But there is no happiness in life without love, that’s why Carmen dies from José’s hand, so not to take a step towards compromising and loneliness together.
Choreographer and stage diretor Valentin Elizariev

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