HBSO to revive Ballet Carmen and stage a premier alongside it

HCMC - The HCMC Ballet, Symphony Orchestra and Opera (HBSO) will revive their Suite Ballet Carmen dance show on Saturday November 14, and combine it with the premier of an extended version of their gay-themed ballet Falling Angels.

Suite Ballet Carmen will be staged in HCMC on November 14 – PHOTO: COURTESY OF HBSO

Falling Angels was originally the short opening item of a trilogy also featuring Depaysement and Ballet Carmen. Depaysement has been omitted this time to make way for the new, longer version of Falling Angels.

Falling Angels was originally conceived by Sung A Lung, the dancer who so memorably performed the soloist dancing on a table in HBSO’s production of Bolero. He sometimes likes to have the word “Hmong” included in his name as he is of Hmong ethnicity. The show’s choreographer, however, is Nguyen Phuc Hung.

It was originally announced as being about the problems of being gay, but the item was very short and the content ambiguous. No doubt greater clarity will be apparent in the extended version to be premiered in November 14.

Ballet Carmen is one of the most successful products in the HBSO Ballet’s repertoire.

Carmen was originally written as an opera by Georges Bizet in 1875. It was in French, but the setting was Spain, and bull-fighting was central to the plot. Spanish dance sequences were included, but it wasn’t until 1967 that a full-blown ballet of the story was created. This happened in Cuba, a Spanish-speaking territory, and the choreographer was Alberto Alonzo. But the music he used was by the Russian composer Rodion Shchedrin. It’s based on the Bizet original, but very different from it.

The story of both the opera and the ballet concerns the charismatic and flirtatious factory-worker Carmen and the spell she casts on the young and inexperienced Don Jose. After a brief affair, however, Carmen leaves Don Jose for the boastful and haughty bull-fighter Escamillo. Don Jose and Escamillo inevitably confront each other, with fatal results.

The fine HBSO production grows on you the more often you see it. It features a black-shrouded figure known as “Fate” who in the later scenes dances among the three protagonists to great effect. This action, indeed all the action, is overlooked by an imposing bull’s head, no doubt representing the stubborn but doom-laden world of the traditional Spanish bull-fight.

In HCMC the dancer Dang Minh Hien will replace Nguyen Luong Hoa in the role of Escamillo. Otherwise the cast of Ballet Carmen will remain as in previous performances – Nguyen Thu Trang as Carmen, Ho Phi Diep as the romantic hero Don Jose, and Thach Hieu Lang as “Fate” (or “Death”).

The combination of an outstanding production like Ballet Carmen and the premier of a new version of an intriguing work like Falling Angels makes for a highly attractive presentation. It’s only being given a single performance, so it shouldn’t be missed.

Ticket prices are from VND650,000 to VND300,000, with a special concession of VND80,000 for students. The show is in the Saigon Opera House and begins at 8 p.m.