To get your brain in the right frame of mind for our upcoming production of Petrouchka/Carmen, we wanted to give you a few different multimedia opportunities to explore the themes of both ballets. Sure, you could watch a recording of a past production of Carmen the opera, or Fokine’s original choreography of Petrouchka, but these productions have been so radically reimagined from the traditional versions that it will be a completely different experience. But if you want to enrich your experience at the ballet, here are a couple of things we recommend.
Forces of Nature
A multimedia exploration to get you fired up for Carmen
Themes. “While the setting is very colorful, that’s not what makes these characters so compelling. Most people have some conception of the characters in the story, because they’re such strong archetypes; but at the same time they’re in a situation that could happen to any person. If you put them in a situation most of us will never go through, we can’t relate to them. But jealousy, destiny, self-destructive behavior, the ways love makes us go out of control . . . those things happen to us all the time. I thought about these characters somewhat differently than either Mérimée or Bizet did. It’s important to me that Carmen’s not just a promiscuous woman. She’s self-destructive, and that self-destructiveness comes out in sexual ways. She has a sense of doom in her from the beginning, and she feels, ‘Why fight it?’ In Mérimée’s version, Don Jose is a famous outlaw bandit. In Bizet’s opera, he’s a devoted military man. In my version, he’s in the military out of duty, but he’s not really comfortable there, nor is he comfortable in the big city. Both of those things make him particularly vulnerable to Carmen’s attractions. He’s out of his depth in a completely new world. He’s attracted to new ideas at the expense of his past, and he’s questioning the direction his life was supposed to take.” –choreographer (and OBT Artistic Director) Christopher Stowell
Listen. We asked Christopher for his recommendation for an iconic recording or two you should check out. Bear in mind that our version has been created by OBT Music Director Niel DePonte using elements from several different Carmen scores, a few pieces from a different French composer, and music Niel found or actually created himself to bridge the different sections together. There actually is no existing version of Carmen you can buy that will sound exactly like ours! But if you want to get a taste of it, Christopher likes Rodion Schedrin’s Carmen Ballet Suite and the Maria Callas recording of Bizet’s opera. Buy them on iTunes through the links below!
Rodion Shchedrin’s Carmen Ballet Suite
George Bizet’s Carmen, Orchestre du Theatre National de l’Opera de Paris, starring Maria Callas
Read. Bizet’s opera Carmen was based on a novella called “Carmen” by French author Prosper Mérimée, which was based on a narrative poem called “The Gypsies” by the Russian poet Alexander Pushkin. Mérimée’s Carmen and Other Stories is for sale at Powell’s Books, and you can read “The Gypsies” right here. We love the goosebump-inducing final lines: “In the wilderness, calamity is unceasing, /And everywhere fateful passion invades, /And from one’s fate there is no releasing.”
Watch. There are scores of Carmen adaptations available, from recordings of the opera to films based on the original story. None of them will look quite like ours, but it’s a good place to start to familiarize yourself with the basic archetypes of the characters and the loose structure of the story. Don’t get too attached, though – all bets are off when it’s a world premiere onstage!
If you want a Golden Age musical with megawatt star power . . .
Carmen Jones, starring Dorothy Dandridge, Harry Belafonte & Pearl Bailey (1954)
If you want straight-up, powerhouse opera action (in 3D no less!) . . .
The Royal Opera House Presents Carmen In 3D
If you want a Charlie Chaplin spoof . . .
Charlie Chaplin’s “A Burlesque on Carmen” (1915)
If you want classic silver screen pomp and circumstance . . .
Cecil B. deMille’s Carmen (1915)
If you want an edgy adaptation of the Mérimée novel . . .
Vicente Aranda’s Carmen starring Paz Vega
And, of course, if you want Beyoncé . . .
Carmen: A Hip-Hopera, starring Beyoncé and Mos Def
Want a taste of what the choreography might look like? Here are some striking, passionate moments we like from past ballets choreographed by Christopher.
The world premiere of Christopher Stowell’s The Rite of Spring. Photo by Blaine Truitt Covert.
Oregon Ballet Theatre Principal Dancer Anne Mueller and Company Artist Lucas Threefoot in Christopher Stowell’s The Rite of Spring.
Oregon Ballet Theatre Principal Dancer Alison Roper and Soloist Brett Bauer in Christopher Stowell’s Eyes On You. Photo by Blaine Truitt Covert.
Principal Dancer Alison Roper and guest artist Kevin Poe in OBT’s production of Christopher Stowell’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Photo by Blaine Truitt Covert.
We Asked, You Answered:
“What’s Your Favorite Song About Jealousy?”
We asked our 5,000+ Facebook followers to share their favorites with us. Here were their suggestions, from a sultry tango to hip-hop to country classics, and from wistful longing to outright vengeance. Intrigued? We’ve got iTunes links below so you can make your own playlist. (CAUTION: Adult language, dark emotions and disturbing content abound. This is music to listen to on a rainy night with a stiff drink.)
Jalousie (The Jealousy Tango) – Jacob Gade
Tennessee Waltz – Emmylou Harris
Forget You – Cee Lo Green
L.A. County – Lyle Lovett
Jessie’s Girl – Rick Springfield
Who’s David? – Busted
Jenny – Sarah Hart
It’s My Party – Lesley Gore
Mr. Brightside – The Killers
Does He Love You (Like He Loves Me) – Reba McIntyre & Linda Davis
Cry Me a River – Justin Timberlake
Jealous Guy – John Lennon
Black Jack Davy – Steeleye Span
Our Lips Are Sealed – The Go-Gos
Kiss With a Fist – Florence & the Machine
Jolene – Dolly Parton
Hey Jealousy – The Gin Blossoms
I Still Believe – from Miss Saigon
Who Is He (And What Is He To You) – Bill Withers
So Jealous – Tegan & Sara
Tonight the Heartache’s On Me – Dixie Chicks
I Do – Jude
Tell Her No – The Zombies
Ex-Lover’s Lover – Voltaire
Ring the Alarm – Beyoncé