Johan Inger was awarded with the Benois de la Danse 2016 Prize for his choreography Carmen, created for the CND and with the Venice TV Award 2018.
- World Premiere: Compañía Nacional de Danza at Teatro de la Zarzuela, Madrid (Spain), April 15th 2015
When Johan Inger was asked to create a new version of Carmen, being himself Swedish and Carmen a piece with a strong Spanish nature, he faced an enormous challenge. But it was also a great opportunity. The story witnessed through the eyes of a young watcher reveals the tale stripped to its mythic and universal elements of passion and violence.
“There is a certain mystery within this character, it could be any kid, it could be Don José when he was a boy, it could be a young Michaela or Carmen and José’s unborn child. It could even be ourselves, with our very first goodness wounded due to a violent experience that, though brief, has had a negative impact in our lives and our ability to interact with others forever.”
The conceptual base of this new staging of Carmen centres on a plain and open stage, with clear-cut, solid and honest visuals and forms. Associations with different atmospheres are created by reinterpreting the original novel and avoiding any locally-rooted aesthetics. So, Seville can be any place. A tobacco factory is any industry. And the mountains of Ronda are a frame of mind, pushed the edge. On stage, that mood appears as seedy, dark, concealed and menacing town quarters. To create this atmosphere, three scenic materials are used—concrete, a mirror and a black corrugated material. The entire set arises out of one shape: an equilateral triangle. By association, the triangle instinctively represents the universe depicted in this artwork; three are a crowd, three stir up jealousy, three, alas, erupt into violence.
Three times three equals nine prisms.
The scenography is synthesized into three moving prisms, each with three different sides, moved by the dancers and choreography. The prisms are used to create the different spaces; clear spaces that do not hinder the message portrayed by the dancing but, rather, reveal possible places and moods just by their form and the material from which they are made.
The floor changes throughout the performance, starting out light and ending darker. Lamps accompany three different moments: the factory, the fiesta and the mountains. Apart from the costumes, this will be the only touch of colour in the scenography.
This scenography is meant to be dynamic and functional, and to show us, from the viewpoint of a child, the multiple aspects of this universal work of art, including violence and its consequences.
Carmen, Johan Inger’s wardrobe sketch
The guidelines set by the director of this ballet were sobriety, timelessness, contemporariness and a subtle proximity with the 1960s, all to be viewed through symbols and metaphors. The personality of the characters will be tinged by these concepts. The idea is to create a new Carmen, removed from stereotypes and from the period normally associated with the story, morphing the characters into their contemporary equivalents.
In this way, soldiers are transposed to an aesthetically different form of power—that of corporate executives. Similarly, the matador, the work’s star-studded figure, now more resembles a film or rock star.
This symbolism is reinforced by metaphoric characters. The gypsies, whose animal instincts are aroused by the charms of the women rolling tobacco leaves, almost become dogs on heat. The candour, purity, kindness and mystery to be found in humankind is represented by a boy – an androgynous presence that grows darker as the work moves forward. The violence and frustration is transformed into shadows; characters whose presence grows in the second part of the ballet. The characters are sophisticated during the party in act one, for instance, but the cleaning woman soon brings us down to earth.
And then, of course, we have Carmen. Here are some of Johan’s own notes: A free, brave, contemporary soul, perhaps an apocalyptic character. The costumes must convey strength and identity, with a slight touch of aesthetic ambiguity.
The first part will be bright and colourful. Act Two becomes darker, with greys and blacks taking the stage. The fabrics are to be chosen taking into consideration their care and keep; they will be easy to wash and iron. We shall especially combine cotton and polyester with a small percentage of elastane.
This starting point for the creation of the ballet’s wardrobe, as in any creative process, will be altered and transformed according to the progress and requirements arising from the construction of Carmen.
Music:Georges Bizet and Rodion Shchedrin
Additional Original Music:Marc Álvarez
Original editor:Carmen Suite, Bizet-Shchedrin: Musikverlag Hans Sikorski, Hamburgo
Costume Design:David Delfín
Set Design:Curt Allen Wilmer (AAPEE)
Lighting Design:Tom Visser
Assistant to the choreographer:Urtzi Aranburu
Assistant to set design:Isabel Ferrández Barrios