National Ballet of Canada just commenced Italian choreographer Davide Bombana’s Carmen at the Four Seasons Centre, billing it a tale of lust, betrayal and murder and based on French writer Prosper Merimée’s scandalous 1845 novella Carmen. The ballet’s Opening Night starred Heather Ogden as the promiscuous title character and her real-life husband Guillaume Côté debuting as her jealous suitor Don José.
Heather Ogden and Guillaume Côté as Carmen and Don José
This rendition is full of experimental music coupled with the traditional unforgettable sounds of Georges Bizet’s 1875 opera. The modern touch only enhances the intensity of the moments and the contemporary tone works well with both the design and choreography. It originally was conceived by Bombana as a one-act version in 2006 and presented by the National Ballet in 2009, but was thereafter reworked into its current two-act performance.
Heather Ogden with Artists of the Ballet
Bombana’s style is more symbolic and dramatic, rather than plot-driven. He envisions Don José as a man bored with his devoted wife Michaela and drawn to seductress Carmen, who is involved with her lover, the strong-willed Garcia.
Heather Ogden and Robert Stephen
Although Carmen is the quintessential femme fatale, Ogden’s performance seems more technical than impassioned during the first act. By the second, however, especially when she is wearing that super sexy red outfit (recalling Katarina Witt in the 1988 Winter Olympics when she portrayed Carmen on ice), the Principal Dancer’s seductive ways and love of passion are not only highlighted but oozing all over the stage. When she drives Don José and his yearning for her into an obsessive rage, it comes as no surprise when she deliberately runs into his dagger, choosing her own death over his desire to take away her freedom.
Heather Ogden and Robert Stephen with Brendan Saye
Xiao Nan Yu’s portrayal of Michaela is particularly noteworthy in its earnestness and the depth of her desire to win back Don José, even as she falters hopelessly due to being more sugar than the spice he craves. Jiri Jelinek’s comedic portrayal of half-man, half-beast Escamillo also pleased the crowd as he effortless dazzled Carmen into truly submitting to him.
Carmen is playing until June 16 at the Four Seasons Centre, Toronto.
Photos courtesy of the National Ballet of Canada/Bruce Zinger