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So far it is all good. And I don't like to be too critical of any production that has so much in its favour, but in fairness I must comment on two issues.

First, the stage and lighting design is inexplicably dark: a black dance floor, a perpetually under-lit flat backdrop, and black or navy costumes for most of the men most of the time add up to a visual experience that is quite at odds with the music and drama. Doesn't the sun shine in Spain? One would have thought that theatre people in Perth, which is just as sun-drenched as Seville, would have flooded the stage with light and colour so that they could use moments of darkness for contrast.

Second, the dance vocabulary tends to undermine the story, in spite of Brandsen's best efforts. In classical ballet, females are etherealised and infantilised. Delicate and almost asexual, they tend to flutter around the stage relying on the males for strength, support and direction. How can Carmen -- wild, sensual, passionate and independent -- be actualised within such conventions?

I was lucky enough to see on stage a modern-dance production of Shchedrin's Carmen a year or two after I first heard the music performed in concert. Jane Pirani's choreography for Dance North, Townsville's resident modern dance company, was as colourful and explosive as the music and allowed Carmen to dominate the stage, and every man on it, through sheer gusto.

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Copyright © 29 September 2007 Malcolm Tattersall, Townsville, Australia


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