Ballet in one act to music by Georges Bizet and Rodion Shchedrin
Libretto Alberto Alonso based on the story Carmen by Prospero Merime
Choreographer: Alberto Alonso
Designer: Boris Messerer
Music Director: Pavel Sorokin
Assistant to Choreographer: Sonia Calero Alonso
Lighting designer: Alexander Rubtsov
In 1960s Maya Plisetskaya was officially called Prima ballerina assoluta of The Bolshoi Theatre. She didn’t lack performances, yet the feeling of artistic discontent was growing bigger. She wanted to dance not only classical pieces, but something new, staged specifically for her. After attending performance of the Ballet Nacional de Cuba at end of 1966 that stopped in Moscow during its Soviet tour, an idea to invite Cuban choreographer Alberto Alonso for Carmen ballet production sparked in her mind. She craved for it for some time already.
The Bolshoi premiered Carmen Suite on 20 April, 1967. Ballet was completed quite quickly. Music, taken from opera Carmen by George Bizet, was transcripted in a record time by Shchedrin - it took him only twenty days. Splendid and accurate decorations, whose key idea ballet master formulated by this concise sentence: “Bullfighting is Carmen’s entire life”, were designed by well-known theater artist, Maya Plisetskaya’s cousin, Boris Messerer, principal artist of Moscow Art Theatre. Premiere cast (and the only cast for a long time), besides Maya Plisetskaya, included Nikolai Fadeyechev (José), Sergei Radchenko (Bullfighter), Natalia Kasatkina (Fate), Alexander Lavrenyuk (Corregidor); conducted by Gennady Rozhdenstvensky.
Baffled by the novelty, audience took ballet quite coldly. One of the few people who unconditionally accepted new performance was Dmitri Shostakovich. He immediately reported on that to the Ministry of Culture. Creators of such unusual and erotic Carmen Suite (clearly interpreted as politically incorrect) desperately needed support as their work was banned right away. “You betrayed classical ballet”, – Soviet Minister of Culture Ekaterina Furtseva would claim outraged. Comments on this statement can be found in the book Portrait of Plisetskaya by Andrei Voznesensky. “In Carmen she first stepped on the soles of her feet, not on pointes, but solidly, flatly, in a flash-and-blood human way”.
Ballet was prohibited from being shown at Expo 67 in Canada (tour of The Bolshoi Theatre Ballet troupe was a part of cultural program of exhibition), yet it wasn’t banned there. From time to time Carmen gained success and would tour worldwide. The most precious recognition for Plisetskaya was by Spanish audience “When they (Spanish) shouted out “Ole”, I realized that I won” – she said.
“There was an interesting moment in Cuba. After our performance, Raul Castro came backstage. He congratulated artists and greeted Alexander Lavrenyuk, who had a role of Corregidor like this: hello, my military colleague. I think his sarcasm gave evidence that he got it: it was a political performance. Even If there was any evil deed in Carmen, it definitely was the political rationale behind, not the erotic one. In any case, erotica was not welcomed by Soviet government anyway (from interview to The Bolshoi Theatre newspaper, 11.2005).
“When telling the story of Carmen she usually mentions that Furtseva strongy recommended her to cover thighs. Spartak that was staged a year later had thighs exposed too. However it was perceived as ideologically correct. Costumes were not the problem. Her costume produced an effect of hyper sexuality onstage. The role interpretation was built around it. And that – like with any other roles as well – attracted to her thousands of people. Combination of imperial kremlin theatre with such apparent sexuality could not leave people indifferent (A. Ratmansky, from booklet for anniversary gala, 2005).
Revived in 2005, to celebrate 80th anniversary of legendary artist, ballet continues living its second life on The Bolshoi Theatre stage. Prima ballerinas of different generation at The Bolshoi Theatre decided to try out the title role such as Galina Stepanenko, Maria Alexandrova, Svetlana Zakharova, Ekaterina Shipulina, Ekaterina Krysanova, Anna Nikulina, Olga Smirnova. This list, without any doubt, will be adding more names on it!
Translated by Anna Muraveva
Ballet in one act to music by Knudage Riisager after works by Carl Czerny
Choreography by Harald Lander
Sceneries, costumes and lighting by Harald Lander
Ballet Masters: Lise Lander, Johnny Eliasen
Music Director: Igor Dronov
“Études means so much to me, because this ballet is a metaphor for myself and for my thoughts on dance. Dance is not just delivering some steps to the audience. The purpose of ballet is, increasingly, to combine spirit, dance and music!”
Etudes is a tribute to dancing. The ballet follows the dancers from the basic five positions to the most difficult steps, from the hard work in the rehearsal room to the most brilliant and elegant stage performance, showing the different sides of the art of ballet, from sheer bravoure to pure poetic expression.
The ballet, built up like crescendo, ending with a breathtaking finale, combines spirit and style. A challenge for a whole company.
Etudes was created by Harald Lander in Copenhagen for the Royal Danish Ballet, and was premiered on the 18th of January 1948. It is one of the most famous Danish ballets in the international repertory.
Harald Lander has recreated the ballet in 1952 for the Paris Opera Ballet, and this is the version showed all over the world.
Among the numerous companies who have presented the ballet are: English National Ballet, American Ballet Theater, Netherlands National Ballet, Royal Danish Ballet, State Ballets of Vienna, Hamburg, Cologne and Munich, Tokyo National Ballet, Teatro Municipal do Rio de Janeiro, National Ballet of Hungary, Canadian National Ballet, Finnish National Ballet, Ballet West in Utah, Houston Ballet, Boston Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, Ballet Municipal de Santiago de Chile, La Scala in Milano, Australian Ballet, China National Ballet, Mariinsky Ballet in St. Petersburg.
Etudes has been filmed for TV several times. For the first time it was broadcasted internationally in 1956, performed by London Festival Ballet at the wedding of Grace Kelly and Prince Rainer. A special TV production directed by Harald Lander in 1969 was made by Danish TV with the Royal Danish Ballet, starring Toni Lander, Erik Bruhn, Flemming Flindt and Henning Kronstam.
Symphony in C
Ballet by George Balanchine in one act to music to Georges Bizet
Choreography by George Balanchine © School of American Ballet
Ballet Master: Elyse Borne
Costume Designer: Tatiana Noginova
Music Director: Timur Zangiev
Lighting Designer: Sergei Shevchenko