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Sensual Drama

West Australian Ballet
in Shchedrin's 'Carmen' -
reviewed by

'... colourful and energetic ...'

Carmen - music Rodion Shchedrin after Georges Bizet. West Australian Ballet at His Majesty's Theatre, Perth. © 2006 Opus Arte

Rodion Shchedrin (born 1932) was asked to write a Carmen ballet but couldn't get Bizet's operatic melodies out of his head (and it's hard to blame him for that) so he went ahead and used them. His music is more original than the word 'arrangement' implies but less so than the word 'composition' claims: the piece would not exist at all without Bizet's big tunes. At about fifty minutes it is a third the length of the opera; with strings and a large battery of percussion but no winds or brass it is both more colourful and less; and with Shostakovich and Prokofiev in his background there is an edgy primitivist energy that suits the story very well and, in fact, heightens its drama.

However it is labelled, the music is so good on its own that it has become Shchedrin's best known work and been released a dozen times on CD. I have, though, been able to trace only two other DVDs of the ballet. One of them features the star Bolshoi ballerina who requested the work, Shchedrin's wife Maya Plisetskaya.

The West Australian Ballet's production is presented just as it was staged in Perth about six years ago. Establishing shots of the audience outside the theatre lead us into the auditorium, the curtain rises and ... well, not quite: the choreographer introduces his work with dancers rehearsing in the background, and the rehearsal segues into the performance.

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Copyright © 29 September 2007 Malcolm Tattersall, Townsville, Australia


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