An eclectic ballet: Carmen

I spent yesterday evening at the Wiener Volksoper watching a ballet adaptation of Carmen. I've seen a bunch of ballets in Vienna, but this was only my second ballet at the Volksoper; the first was The Nutcracker back in December 2008. I've also seen one opera at the Volksoper: an adaptation of A Midsummer Night's Dream, in English.

If I can say only one thing about the Wiener Volksoper and its performances, it would be that they have a knack for screwing things up in the name of modernization and/or artistic freedom.

Shakespeare as an opera--in English--was pretty bad. The Nutcracker featured a five minute break in live action while a huge projection screen was lowered from the ceiling and we could all watch some primitive digital animation of what was supposed to be a video game that one of the children received as a gift. And, the intense lighting was distracting and obnoxious. I hoped the Volksoper might do justice to an opera classic like Carmen, but my hopes were all but dashed in the first five minutes when the usually-colorful first scene was drab and sparse. I can forgive bad sets and costumes if the dancing is good, but it wasn't.

I have nothing against modern dance per se, but the dancers in Carmen strayed too far from the classical notions of beauty and expression. I constantly had the feeling that no one was able to move their bodies in the way the choreographer has intended. They were flailing their arms and legs in a series of half-extensions and staccato movements that I found neither expressive nor beautiful. They mostly looked like they were trying too hard. On the other hand, maybe the choreographer intended it this way, and I simply missed the point. That's not to say there was nothing good about the dancing; there were some genuinely impressive jumps and turns onstage, but they were too few to make the overall impression a positive one.

Furthermore, the non-orchestra music (perhaps half of the whole score) needed work, and half of the story was missing.

Lastly, Volksoper, what's with the digital animations?!? For half of the show I thought I was watching the title sequence to a James Bond film.

While I was watching, I was trying to think of who could have possibly put such a ballet together, and I think this bill would sum it up:

Carmen, the Ballet
Written by Michael Bay
Music by Ridley Scott
Visual Effects by Albert R. Broccoli
and Choreography by Mick Jagger


RM said...

I watched Carmen: A Hip-Hopera on MTV once

fbg said...

That's whack. Maybe it was worse.