Ballet West's tournée in
Odgen with Amodio's Carmen
web of obsession, jealousy, love and betrayal takes center stage when Ballet
West (Salt Lake City, Utah) presents the Ogden premiere of Amedeo Amodio’s Carmen,
2005, April 22 and 23 at the Val A. Browning Center for the Performing Arts.
created the ballet for his own company, Aterballetto, had been toying with the
idea for his setting of the work for a number of years before he actually had a
company on which he could set it.
employs a non-vocal setting of Bizet’s famous score (so the arias are all
there, they’re simply given instrumental rather than vocal life). Its focus on
the four principals — the fiery Gypsy woman Carmen; Don José, the soldier who
becomes smitten with her; Don José’s would-be fiancée Micaela; and Escamillo,
the arrogant but virile toreador to whom Carmen is also attracted — allows it
to be performed in two acts instead of the opera’s four.
the technical challenges of the main roles are those any good dancer could pull
off and that the real challenge is in the character nuances.
some of those character nuances is newly-promoted demi-soloist Annie Breneman.
Breneman has been dancing featured roles in every production the company has
presented this season, acquitting herself marvelously in everything from the
vivacious Queen of the Carriage Trade in “Offenbach in the Underworld” to the
Sugar Plum Fairy to, in Carmen, Micaela.
she comments, “is a hard character to play. She’s one of the people. I see her
as strong and earthy rather than light; she’s innocent, but certainly not
character in the story, she is being pulled in two different directions. I
think Don José loves Micaela, but like a sister, where he’s totally obsessed
with Carmen. Micaela believes in their relationship and will fight to make it
work, but she also knows she’s losing him to Carmen.”
In terms of
the pas de deux she dances with Don José, she said Amodio advised her to
dance “like the wind when the windows have just been opened.
contrast, Carmen’s work is more dynamic; it blends smooth and crisp, strength
with a sense of sensuality.”
She has a
slightly different take on Amodio’s view of the technical challenges: “There’s
a lot of movement in the back and torso in Amedeo’s choreography that you
wouldn’t do in a strictly classical work. It’s sent a lot of us off to see our
chiropractors and massage therapists after rehearsals!”
who has previously danced mainly classical roles and moodily dramatic
characters like Helena in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, says she was
surprised when she was cast in “Offenbach.”
of the Carriage Trade was a very different sort of role for me. I think of
myself as more of an adagio dancer; I’m not a natural jumper or turner. So the
vivacity and the technical challenges of the role pushed me. In the end, I
hammed it and just ran with it. I like the challenge of dramatic roles; it’s
good not to get pigeon-holed into one type of part.”
director Jonas Kage sees Breneman’s versatility as one of her greatest
dancers have a weakness in some area,” he comments, “but Annie can do it all.
She has a nice warmth onstage, a nice musicality. I have been very moved by her
onstage: she projects well and has great depth to her characterizations. And
she is a real pleasure to work with.”
got hooked on ballet as a youngster. Originally from Florida, she applied to
the University of Utah when she noticed the ballet department’s affiliation
with Ballet West. She was invited to join Ballet West as an apprentice in 1998;
through 2001, she concurrently served as an apprentice and pursued her BFA.
gorgeous, strong, high arch that makes her feet look so spectacular on pointe?
“I was born that way,” she confides.
Carmen, the ballet
to the opera, there have been unusual movie adaptations and even an ice ballet
featuring Gold Medalist Katerina Witt—and many, many ballets. About 25
productions exist, beginning with Petipa’s in 1847 (he choreographed based on
the book before Bizet had yet composed the opera); the list of choreographers
includes John Cranko, Ruth Page, Charles Weidman, Alberto Alonso, and Mats Ek.
Amodio had the idea to scale back the production from its often-extravagant
to explore the psychological inner workings and interrelationships of the four
main characters,” says Amodio, speaking through a translator shortly before the
production opened last fall in Salt Lake City. “It’s a small, intimate setting
of the story.”
takes an interesting narrative twist: it begins with the fall of the curtain on
a traditional performance of the opera. The audience is transported backstage,
where the stage crew begins to strike the scenery of the show as the artists
change into their street clothes.
A member of
the crew tries on the jacket that the artist playing Don José wore in the
opera. A violinist crossing the stage bumps into him; the cards with which he
was playing scatter (this is the ballet’s nod to the fortune-telling scene and
the “Death” aria from the opera). Suddenly, they are swept into Carmen’s world.
enters in search of Don José; she and Carmen get into a fight, for which Don
José arrests Carmen. She escapes; he is imprisoned for his failure. To escape
and pursue Carmen, Don José is forced to turn outlaw.
introduces the great bullfighter Escamillo, who pursues Carmen; this act
features a love pas de deux between Carmen and Don José, set to the love
theme from the opera.
tableau takes on a surreal quality: Carmen, who has clearly been in Escamillo’s
company, encounters a Don José livid with jealousy at the thought that the
woman for whom he gave up everything might not be his alone. She dies at his
hands — but also in his arms.