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Masterpieces of Russian romance
Masterpieces of Russian romance

Premiere

Carmen Suite

Credits

Music: Georges Bizet Rodion Shchedrin (Georges Bizet's opera transcription for orchestra)
Libretto: Alberto Alonso based on Prospero Merime's novella Carmen
Choreography: Alberto Alonso

Production Choreographer: Victor Barykin
Musical Director of the production and Conductor: Pavel Sorokin
Production Designer (set design and costumes): Boris Messerer
Lighting Designer: Denis Solntsev
Conductors: Evgeny Volynsky, Karen Durgaryan

Carmen Suite is a one-act ballet created in 1967 by Cuban choreographer Alberto Alonso with the music of Russian composer Rodion Shchedrin (Georges Bizets opera transcription for orchestra) for his wife, prima ballerina of the Bolshoi Theatre Maya Plisetskaya.

Ballet was not born easily. In the 1960s, Maya Plisetskaya was already quite officially considered prima ballerina assoluta of the Bolshoi Theatre. She wanted to dance not only classics, but also something new, staged especially for her. In the USSR, Plisetskaya could not find a choreographer capable to stage Prospero Merime's novella Carmen, and a composer ready to compete with Georges Bizet, the author of the opera Carmen. During a tour of the Cuban National Ballet in Moscow, Plisetskaya realized who would stage Carmen for her choreographer Alberto Alonso. Everything was solved with the music, too. Maya Plisetskaya turned to her husband Rodion Shchedrin for help, and he, initially skeptical, plunged into work, creating an arrangement of the opera score for a new, unusual composition in twenty days: strings and 47 percussion items.

On April 20, 1967, Carmen Suite was first shown on the stage of the Bolshoi Theatre. The scenery for the performance, the main idea of which the choreographer formulated with the succinct phrase "Carmen's whole life is a bullfight," was created by the famous theatre designer, Plisetskaya's cousin Boris Messerer, the chief designer of the Moscow Art Theatre at that time. Gennady Rozhdestvensky conducted the premiere.

The performance caused contradictory responses. The Soviet ballet audience had never seen anything brighter and more erotic. One of the few spectators who unconditionally accepted the new performance was Dmitry Shostakovich, as he reported to the Ministry of Culture. The ballet Carmen Suite was revived on the stage of the Bolshoi Theatre in 2005 for the 80th anniversary of Maya Plisetskaya.

The ballet is centered at the tragic history of the gypsy Carmen and the soldier who loved her, José, whom Carmen leaves for the sake of a young Torero. The relationship of the heroes and the death of Carmen at the hands of José are predetermined by Fate. Thus, the story of Carmen (in comparison with the literary source and the opera by Georges Bizet) is solved in a symbolic way, which is reinforced by the unity of the scene (the bullfight site).