Hello and welcome to the Tragic Heroine Throwdown, Oregon Ballet Theatre’s epic summer playoff between good girls and bad girls from every genre of literature, film, drama, music, history and pop culture. The first round of voting produced a clear front-runner in the feisty, impassioned Carmen, who led her team to victory in nearly every bracket this week. Round 2 voting will commence tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. on our blog and Facebook, but we thought we’d take a few minutes to introduce you to our team captains, the iconic romantic heroines who will be gracing our stages and winning your hearts during the 2011-2012 season, in two World Premiere productions featuring the full force of the OBT Orchestra.
We asked two OBT staff members to weigh in with their perspective on these two heroines who have moved and inspired audiences through endless reinventions and recreations over hundreds of years. First up, repping Team Carmen, is OBT Executive Director (and classically-trained singer) Diane Syrcle. Next week, School of OBT Director Damara Bennett will take the plate for Team Giselle. And the best part is, you don’t have to pick between one or the other, because we’re offering you a very special deal on a package for both shows – Petrouchka/Carmen in October and Giselle in February. Starting at only $46, you can buy a Thursday night package for both shows (area 6 seats, not including handling charges, limit 4 per person). This offer is available for one week only, June 13-17th, after the winner of the Tragic Heroine Throwdown is announced. You can buy tickets online or through the box office. $46 to see both these gorgeous heroines live? You don’t want to miss this!
Team: “Vixens & Femme Fatales”
Star of: Petrouchka/Carmen (October 8-15, 2011)
Created By: Composer George Bizet & Choreographer Christopher Stowell
Location: Seville, Spain, around 1820
Sultry Gypsy girl Carmen is the tempestuous heroine of George Bizet’s famed opera, which premiered in Paris in 1875. She’ll be lighting up the stage at OBT this fall in a brand-new version choreographed by OBT Artistic Director Christopher Stowell, on a double-bill with Nicolo Fonte’s world premiere of Stravinsky’s Petrouchka. While Giselle is a classic ballet which has been restaged by many different choreographers, Carmen has no definitive ballet version, so our heroine will be very much Stowell’s own. The original operatic story follows the exploits of Carmen, a fiery Spanish gypsy girl who seduces the soldier Don José away from his fianceé Micaela. When she is arrested after knifing another woman in the factory where they work, she uses her feminine wiles on Don José to escape, leaving him to face prison time for allowing her to go free, and then entraps him into leaving the straight and narrow to join her friends’ band of smugglers. But despite his unyielding fidelity to her, Carmen soon moves on to another handsome face – the bullfighter Escamillo – and her infidelity finally drives Don José to the brink of madness. He decides he would rather kill Carmen than see her with another man, leading to a dramatic climax where he stabs her in the heart during her new lover’s bullfight. We’re excited to see how Stowell’s balletic adaptation explores and reinvents the elements of this story; we don’t know yet what it will look like in its final incarnation, and how it might resemble or differ from the opera, but we can promise you that the drama, passion, sex and murder will leap off the stage. We guarantee that you do not want to miss this show.
DIANE TALKS CARMEN
What was your first-ever experience with Carmen?
My first experience with Carmen was in 7th grade in a choir class in Clovis, New Mexico. My teacher had filmstrips from the Metropolitan Opera. We learned about the story of the opera, about set construction, costume design, and the great singers like Maria Callas, and Grace Bumbry. I was drawn into the story.
Have you ever sung Carmen and what was the experience like?
As a young singer my dream was to sing Carmen. My voice teacher shook her head one day and said, “my dear – YOU are not a Carmen. YOU are a soprano. Please learn Michaela’s aria.” I was devastated. Michaela is the “nice girl” – I wanted to be the powerful, sassy Carmen.
Why do you think the opera is so popular?
Carmen has everything an audience could want – an accessible story, a sexy and powerful female lead, a man to love and a man to hate, a nice girl, and of course, smugglers thumbing their noses at social expectations. And of course you know how it ends . . . I think every time I see Carmen I want everyone to make better choices, and I get drawn into the story again and again.
What makes Carmen an interesting character?
Carmen is a fully-embodied woman. She draws people in through the power of her personality, sensuality, and will. The archetype of her character creates great opportunities to explore the nuances of power and control, and how her lust for power is her ultimate undoing. What causes her self-destructive choices? How does she use her own sexuality, and how is she being used? What is her worth? Why choose the bullfighter over the soldier? Each choice adds texture and color to the voice, the movement, the gesture.
What do you hope our audiences take away from our production this season?
I am excited to see the passion and pathos of the story brought to life through music and movement. The power of the emotion is palpable in dance. We are invited into the story to create our own song. The way our dancers commit to movement will illuminate Carmen in new ways. I hope each audience member walks away in awe of its creation and filled with questions about how the story informs our lives today.