Ballet Español

March 20, 1999

Ballet Español de la Habana

March 20-21, 1999
Teatro Nacional, Garcia Lorca Hall

Havana, Cuba

Reviewed by Reny Martinez

Ballet Español de la Habana performed its version of the well-known story of Prosper Mérimée’s Carmen this spring. The choreographers of this new two-act version are Leyza Méndez and Iván Rodriguez Betancourt, who also danced the lead role of José, alternating with Eduardo Veitía, the company’s director.

Betancourt and Méndez chose to show us the dramatic plot clearly, and couched it in flamenco-style music and dancing. He also took liberties with the original scenario of Bizet’s opera, but he did not sacrifice the most important onstage confrontations of this tragedy’s characters.

The choreographic patterns of the piece are very simple, particularly the group scenes, and the love duets are sometimes not hot enough. Musical excerpts from Bizet were cleverly arranged and matched with flamenco music, which was performed live by the company’s own ensemble-a remarkable cantaor, Andres Correa, percussionist Carlos Estévez, and two gifted young guitarists Josué Tacoronte and Juniel Borroto. There were also well-selected recordings of first-class performances by Spanish violinist Pablo de Sarasate in the “Habanera” from Bizet’s Carmen.

The women’s parts were satisfactorily rendered; ovations go to Irene Rodríguez as the Bull (Fate), Adalina Carvajal as Doña Frasquita, and Daymell Otero as Carmen. The male leads, however, exhibited a weakness of strength and passion, and their arms showed the influence of their ballet training.

Carmen is a production with beautiful settings and costumes.