My Carmen is not only a beautiful and sensual woman; she is like a wild animal! A woman who thinks only of herself and loves only herself.
Marcia Haydée is talking about her ballet Carmen, created for Chile's Ballet de Santiago in 2004. It is now making the giant leap over Argentina to arrive on South America's east coast where Julio Bocca is putting it on for his Ballet Nacional Sodre in Montevideo in Uruguay.
I am very happy to have Marcia working with the company for the first time — says Bocca — it is very inspiring to work alongside her: she is so good humoured and wise.
The new production is not a carbon copy of that in Santiago.
The choreography is the same, but I shortened it a little.
says Haydée. Not just a ‘little' however: it is 20 minutes shorter than the original version.
Julio asked for this change as he prefers that things are a bit tighter for his audience.
She realised what I wanted with these characters for my dancers and has given freedom to each Carmen to explore her untamed side… Marcia wants Carmen to be wild!
The wild Carmen for the opening night is the extremely polite, sunny and generous Maria Riccetto.
It certainly gave me the opportunity to dig into a different me,
Riccetto says laughing.
I discovered a side of my personality I didn't know I had. She is fearless, strong, sexy, sensual, passionate, and ready to do whatever she needs to get what she wants. It was challenging to learn how to walk on stage and forget about being a ballerina and be just a woman.
Haydée says that Riccetto as a person is so very different,
So she influenced the role of Carmen and brought some of her personality into the role, which is very interesting. Maria's Carmen is a sort of “aristocratic Carmen”: she never becomes vulgar. She's like an animal, a gypsy, her nature is a wild but she is never vulgar. And of course, technically she's amazing.
Although the ballet follows the structure of the story used in Bizet's opera, the character of Carmen is more like that found in Prosper Mérimée's novella. In the book it is not a hair-pulling cat-fight between Carmen and her co-worker at the cigar factory, but Don José arrives to find the loser “lying on the broad of her back, streaming with blood, with an X newly cut on her face by two strokes of a knife”… shocking. That's the reaction Haydée is going for.
Letting yourself go when a lifetime's training has been geared toward control and self-discipline, and leaving behind the world of Wilis and tulle, is not easy. It is, though, a feat that Haydée was celebrated for, most notably when she played Katherina in John Cranko's The Taming of the Shrew. Riccetto adds,
There's a lot of love, lust and passionate scenes during which I have to have no shame and let the character take over. It was hard at first but I found a connection with my partner, Argentine's Sergio Muzzio, and a sense of trust and respect that made it a lot easier. I'm thankful for that.
Haydée, too, is delighted with Muzzio, her new Don José:
Sergio is so right as this character. He has a great ability to bring out his emotions. You really understand that he falls in love with Carmen and even loses his life for her.
Don José is an interesting role that develops during the piece. At the beginning he is the straightforward officer with a planned life and he's supposed to marry Micaëla: a very serious man. Then, in one moment, he sees Carmen and his world is turned upside down. He gives himself completely to her, he loses his career and becomes a murderer. To bring that out on stage you have to be a very good actor and Sergio has that ability.
So they make a good couple?
The couple is very touching and beautiful. Maria and Sergio are absolutely in the right moment to dance these roles. Maria Riccetto has developed a very different Carmen. She has made her own Carmen. Each dancer that dances Carmen is different.
The Ballet Nacional Sodre is fielding five casts.
Marcia Haydée's neoclassical style bends itself to the raw interpretation needed for Carmen. I ask Maria Riccetto if the role is technically demanding:
Yes, from the beginning to the end. By the time you make it to the last pas de deux, you are drained both fiscally and emotionally. I love those kinds of roles.
You leave your heart and legs on stage!
Of working with Haydée, Riccetto says,
It has been amazing to be with her. She is one of the most generous people I've met in this business.
She is clear and precise about what she wants but also nice enough to give you freedom to create and develop your character.
It is a true honour to work with her. Knowing who she is and what she's done makes it even more special to listen to her during rehearsals. A true artist who's not afraid to share what she knows.
Considering the vast spaces of South America, Haydée and Bocca's companies are relatively close together and so this collaboration seems particularly felicitous.
I've known Julio for many years — says Haydée — we are very good friends. I respect him enormously for his career and the way he managed it.
Now I am amazed by the work he's been doing with this company and the changes he had brought. His dancers are very good, and they work 200 % each moment because Julio, as a dancer, used to work that hard, so he demands the same from his dancers.
Bocca too is happy with the results of this coming together.
It is a two-act ballet which tells the story very well and the company looks wonderful in this production. It fits our dancers perfectly as there are many different and contrasting characters.
The initially hesitant Riccetto says,
You get wrapped in the story right from the start. Carmen is definitely a ballet and a role I will cherish forever.
Carmen runs from 11 August until 21 August 2016
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano') about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman's Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia' column for Dancing Times magazine.