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Mats Ek's Carmen

The Cullberg Ballet: Ana Laguna (Carmen), Marc Hwang (José), Yvan Auzely (Escamillo), Pompea Santoro (Micaela), George Elkin, Boaz Cohem.
Choreography Mats Ek: décor and costumes Marie-Louise Ekman lighting design Goran Westrup  
Arthaus 100 182 [51 min] DVD Region Code: 2,5. PCM Stereo PAL Recorded Stockholm, 1996
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Only 51 mins, but so gripping is this ballet version of Carmen that we have already Seen&Heard it through three times and enthralled visitors with it. The DVD reached me at the same time as we had been overwhelmed by the South African version of the opera Carmen brought to Wilton's Music Hall by Broomhill Opera.

Mat Ek's Carmen is far from a literal version of Mérimée & Bizet. It concentrates on the four central characters, with Don José torn between domesticity back home and the allure of the wicked world, and the fickle and insatiably rapacious Carmen playing her two latest men. The pervading sexuality is enacted powerfully but without descending to nudity, and at several points the tension is screwed up with vocal interjections, but no intelligible words. A violent ending is the only possible one. The movements and patternings carry astonishing emotional intensity and it is all turned into searing feeling that drives out questions of literal interpretation of the familiar tale, which Mats Ek assumes his audience to know well.

The Rodion Schtschedrin Carmen suite has become deservedly popular in the concert hall and with percussion-emphasised rhythms has proved well suited to dancing and used by many choreographers. It makes an effective aural backdrop to the compelling picture, with good selection of camera angles. It sounds well.but I find no credit for orchestra or conductor from Arthaus.

 Peter Grahame Woolf

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