Georges Bizet – Rodion Shchedrin

Carmen Suite

ballet in one act

Recommended 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, Vladimir Ovodok

Running time: 55 minutes
Premiere: 30 March 1974
Revival premiere: 24 April 2019

12

Prologue

Flight Towards Life

Flight Towards Love

Flight Towards Death

Epilogue 

 

 

Needless to say, 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 a kind of essence of the plot and music composed by Georges Bizet. The original idea of a ballet based on the opera Carmen 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 the composer Rodion Shchedrin, who composed a wonderful transcription of Bizet’s music, and Cuban choreographer Alicia Alonso, who wrote the libretto and designed the choreography of Carmen Suite. As a result, a marvelous ballet was created at the Bolshoi Theatre, featuring Maya Plisetskaya in the main role. In Belarus Carmen Suite was first staged in 1974, the original libretto and choreography being written by Valentin Elizariev. The creators of the Belarusian production 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 how 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 stringed instruments could solve the first problem, while the percussion instruments – the second one. Thus the orchestra was made up of stringed and percussion instruments.

 

The score of Carmen is one of the most perfect 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 keeping up to all the typical opera peculiarities. It is a wonderful example of perfect understanding of all rules of the genre!

 

Bizet’s orchestra is transparent and flexible. The virtuosic use of natural overtones of the strings helps the singers to present their voices to the audience. This ideal “operaticness” of the score was another argument for 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 undoubtedly 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 worked with great enthusiasm 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 succeeded or not.”

 

Composer Rodion Shchedrin

 

 

“The melodramatic plot of the novel by Mérimée acquired both tragic and philosophical generalization in Bizet’s opera. This lyrical and tragic essence of Bizet’s music found its reflection in 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. The conventionality of ballet shifts them in time easily and naturally, making it possible to observe not the things that happen in the heroine’s everyday life, but rather what happens in her inner world.

 

She is neither a vamp, nor a femme fatale! We are more attracted by her inner beauty, her solid and uncompromising nature.

 

Alexander Blok wrote about Carmen, ‘You are the law yourself; you fly, you fly past to other constellations, not knowing any orbits.’ The music by Bizet and Shchedrin reflects the flight of the free Carmen towards her love, happiness and... death.”

 

Conductor Yaroslav Voshchak

 

 

“For several years now I’ve been fascinated by the music of Carmen Suite. My admiration turned into 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 discloses new facets of Carmen’s image, while the contemporaries find in it some problems and thoughts that are important for them. Shchedrin, using the original material, created a wonderful ballet suite, with subtle nuances of the orchestral palette.

 

While listening to this music, I saw my own Carmen, who was very different from Carmens in other productions. For me, she is not only a remarkable woman, proud and uncompromising, not only the symbol of love. She is a hymn to love, pure, honest, burning, demanding love, feelings of colossal flight, which none of the men she’s met is capable of. 

 

Carmen is neither a doll, nor a pretty toy, nor a hustler. Love is the sense of her life. Nobody can evaluate and understand her inner world, hidden behind her gorgeous beauty.

 

José loves Carmen passionately. This love has changed the rude and narrow-minded soldier, opened non-material pleasures for him, but very soon his embrace turns into chains for her. Intoxicated by his feelings, José doesn’t even try to understand Carmen. He begins to love not her, but his feelings to her.

 

She could fall in love with the Torero, who is not indifferent to her beauty. But the Torero – exquisite and gallant, gorgeous and fearless – is inwardly lazy and cold, 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 accepts death from José’s hand, so as not to take the path toward compromising or being lonely together.”

 

Choreographer Valentin Elizariev

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