Posts Tagged ‘bizet


EDC: Natalie Weir’s R&J and Carmen Sweet


Natalie Weir’s R&J (Act 1 – Passion) and Natalie Weir’s Carmen Sweet

Expressions Dance Company

The Noosa Long Weekend Festival

Thursday 20th June 2013


Reviewed by Xanthe Coward 



Rhiannon McLean Carmen Sweet


See Barry Alsop’s images here


From age to age, one classic story is as timeless as love itself… 

Winner of Outstanding Achievement in Choreography at the 2012 Australian Dance Awards, Natalie Weir’s R&J presents three versions of events inspired by the star-crossed lovers at the heart of Shakespeare’s greatest love story. Exclusively for the Noosa Long Weekend, EDC will revisit the explosive first act, transporting audiences to the beating heart of the modern-day club scene where passion and desire erupt in a dangerous and tragic love triangle.  



This iconic tale of Spanish heat and gypsy passion unravels when naïve soldier Don José has his heart ignited by the fiery Carmen, discarding his childhood sweetheart and deserting the army. Josè’s attempts to tame the freedom-loving beauty are futile, and when she leaves him for the famous toreador Escamillo, all three are engulfed in the flames of jealousy and revenge. Opera’s most famous femme fatale is stripped. Weir’s Carmen is a free spirit; dangerous, volatile and vulnerable, brought to vivid life by three dancers playing her different states of mind and alter egos.


The only dance event of the Festival in 2013, Expressions Dance Company (EDC as the rebranding goes), could have sold out twice over. The full house included many young dancers and their mums and dance teachers, from various Sunshine Coast schools and studios. With the Noosa area schools best represented (NPDA REPRESENT!), I couldn’t help but wonder where the rest were. Surely, a chance to se the acclaimed Queensland company on home turf is more appealing than making the trek to Brisbane on a cold, rainy night? I know, sometimes I make that trek up to four nights a week, and it’s really not as bad as many Coasties make out, but I also appreciate seeing so much top notch stuff, so much closer to home during the Festival.


Actually, it’s moving day today (can you believe we’re moving house in between rehearsals for West Side Story and The Noosa Long Weekend?), so I haven’t been tweeting much! Tonight I have the opportunity to see David Pomeranz’s Chaplin: A Life. In Concert & Meow Meow, and I’ll be letting you know how both those shows go.


EDC did not disappoint (they rarely do). This was indeed, as the Festival program promised, “a delectable double-bill of two enchanting short works.” Poppy and I were excited to see so many young friends in the audience and we enjoyed the buzz before the show began. (We also enjoyed our own little “supper club” at Gaston after the show had ended. Poppy and Jason swapped magic tricks, and we had the best duck spring rolls, dumplings and dessert!).


Natalie Weir’s R&J (Act 1 – Passion)

Natalie Weir’s R&J is, I believe, just one version of three – the first act revisited for this performance – and now I wish I’d seen the other two at some stage. It’s not new news, but nevertheless, it’s a bold statement to set this age-old tragic tale in the throbbing modern day dance club scene. Something about setting the story in this environment seemed cruel! But even Poppy, at seven, missed nothing and look, I’m never sorry to have taken her to a more sophisticated re-telling of any classic story…it’s never too soon to start talking about making good choices when it comes to party drugs.


Representing a mass of moving bodies on a dance floor can be a challenge, can’t it? But EDC opened this piece with a stunning cinematic scene of writhing figures under coloured lights, which established immediately, a sense of intimacy, urgency and helped to build the anticipation for a well-known story. It’s not like we don’t know how it ends, but the thing about a new take on anything is that we like to see how we GET to the end!


The star-crossed lovers are superb in their roles, the passion is there, and we really feel for them, as Juliet becomes the prize in a fight on the dance floor between Romeo and a Capulet dude, whose final blow is a king hit, knocking Romeo unconscious. This gives Juliet the opportunity to demonstrate her grief in a beautifully executed solo before taking a few too many party pills and dying in Romeo’s arms.


I’m under the impression we have no new young male dancers on the Coast at the moment, because if we did, they could would should have been there to see these guys. This is the kind of contemporary dance that is easy to watch and wonderful to remember. We know the story, despite the twists and turns in its retelling, and the dance is so good that, unlike when I was growing up dancing and wanted to be living that life on stage, I watch now and want to live that life IN MY LIFE. That applies more to Carmen though. Obviously, I don’t want to OD at a dance party.


Natalie Weir’s Carmen Sweet

I love Bizet’s Carmen. It was my first favourite opera, and for me it still trumps all the rest in terms of story, character, sound, and entertainment value. And this reading of his Carmen absolutely blew me away. With three Carmens in one last night, we were able to consider the various aspects of the famous, flirty, fiery woman. Her vulnerability doesn’t always come through in the opera, but we see it in Weir’s piece. We see the passion, the ambition, the determination, and with just six EDC dancers, to the sumptuous sound of Shchedrin’s Carmen Suite, we see the jealousy, rage, and the ultimate revenge. It was a double-bill of bold love affairs and death!


After seeing Sheridan Harbridge perform during her sold-out Supper Club at berardo’s on Wednesday night, her own sexy version of Habanera: “L’amour est un oiseau rebelle” (Love is a rebellious bird), I wasn’t sure how hot this show would be, but hot it was! The dancers are in fine form, and it’s easy to see why Elise May received the Outstanding Performance by a Female Dancer Award for her work in this production. She seems to channel every aspect of the sultry, sexy Carmen, and watches while her two alter egos (Michelle Barnett & Riannon McLean) play ruthlessly with her heart and mind. The performances by Daryl Brandwood, Benjamin Chapman, Thomas Gundry Greenfield and Jack Ziesing are equally compelling and technically proficient. I’m so impressed with this show; it left me on a high, and not the Juliet pill popping one. I’m continually impressed with Natalie Weir’s work and I can’t wait to see more from this company. Let’s hope we see them back in Noosa next year.


Again, I’m going to say to Sunshine Coast artists and teachers, FIND A WAY TO SEE THE BEST IN YOUR FIELD! When the shows come to you there’s really no excuse. The Noosa Long Weekend Festival showcases artists who you can’t afford to miss if you’re truly serious about teaching and/or working on your craft, and the ticket prices are excellent value (it was just $55 for EDC’s 90-minute performance at The J Theatre).


Unfortunately, considering the number of dance lovers on the Coast, that’s it for dance at this year’s Festival! But there are still plenty of events happening over the final three days of the Festival, including the sensational Festival Highlights Celebration Concert on Sunday at the Outrigger from 12pm – 4pm.


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And what’s next for EDC? When Time Stops September 6th – 14th at QPAC’s Playhouse.


Book online






Opera Queensland

26th October – 10th November 2012

QPAC Lyric Theatre


Reviewed by Miss Lynnie


Music by Georges Bizet

Libretto by Meilhac and Halevy

Novella by Merimee

Artistic Director: Lindy Hume

Conductor: Emmanuel Joel-Hornak

Revival Director: Matthew Barclay


American mezzo-soprano Kirstin Chávez as Carmen. Photo by Branco Gaica.

Free she was born, and free she will die!

Bizet’s iconic tale of passion unfolds when a fight breaks out at a cigarette factory in a Seville square, and Carmen – a gypsy – is arrested by the soldier Don José. Carmen quickly seduces him but like many before him, Don José’s attempts to tame the freedom-loving beauty are futile. His obsession with her turns to murderous rage when she leaves him for the famous toreador, Escamillo.

I wonder if Prosper Merimee’s short-story on which Bizet’s Carmen is based has been read since the romantic opera was first performed at the Opera-Comique, Paris, on 3 March 1875? Of all the oft-performed operas, Carmen surely contains the most convincing narrative structure and fully drawn characters who include not only a doomed but passionate hero, but a similarly fatalistically destined heroine. Perhaps we each like to think there is something of this in us ordinary mortals? Oh, but naturally we would forego Carmen’s stiletto knifing through the heart, and Don José’s imprisonment, or his suicide via the aforementioned stiletto.

Opera Queensland’s Artistic Director Lindy Hume has chosen an Opera Australia production, which in turn was based on a 2006 Covent Garden co-production with the Norwegian National Opera. It is, therefore, a ‘classic’ interpretation and is indeed, a venerable performance; so do not fear that this Carmen has undergone a modern rethink, or a restaging to set it in a particular epoch such as 1930s politically divisive Berlin, or the currently popular, politically incorrect 1950s era just to allow incorporation of the glorious and vibrant frocks. In this Carmen the wardrobe mistress fulfils our expectation of sexy Spanish damsels dressed in fitting bodices worn with skirts of many-tiered flounces, with muted pigments of browns and yellows and with only a touch of colour. It was actually a darkened, subdued setting all round, with the lighting designer (Paule Constable) choosing subtle illumination that cast rather wonderful shadows to all areas of the rusted-yellow earthen adobe walls that comprised the set. This archetypal Spanish set conceived by Tanya McCallin was simple but effective, except perhaps for the Smugglers Mountain Retreat in Act III, where a sort of shade sail roof was hoisted above the floor and strung hammock-like between the re-arranged adobe walls. It could have been another part of town rather than a remote mountain hideaway; fine if you’re intimate with and know the opera, or took time to read and recall the synopsis while taking in the show, but not so obvious to first-timers who may not have studied European partisan history.



American mezzo-soprano Kirstin Chávez as Carmen. Photo by Branco Gaica.



Love’s a bird that lives in freedom


American mezzo-soprano Kirstin Chavez considers Carmen to be her signature role and has performed her Carmen from Japan to just about everywhere. Our Brisbane audience was delighted to have her captivate it as the rebellious, spirited, saucy, sparkling, uncaged bird. Kirstin plays a capricious beauty with flashing eyes and passionate, reckless emotions. Wouldn’t we all like to be like this?



American mezzo-soprano Kirstin Chávez as Carmen. Photo by Branco Gaica.


Oh why did fate ever decree we two should meet!


laments a woebegone Don José. The devil has the best songs, but our guileless Don José has a couple of matchless tenor tunes. Is there a more heartfelt love tale set to music than La fleur que tu m’avais jeteé? He declares, “I was enslaved”. And so was I! Ukrainian tenor, Konstantin Andreiev, as Don José, is poetically handsome with flowing locks. He sings expressively with a soft, gentle and raw quality of sound. Andreiev’s acting skills allowed us to go with him in his deterioration from dignified and decent young man to a state of impassioned, obsessive jealousy. He was convincing both visually and vocally.  Konstantin has also performed absolutely everywhere. He is well cast in the romantic tenor role, and his Rodolfo (La Bohème) would be as pleasing as his Don José. It’s hard to imagine that he always loses the girl in these fables.

The gentle country maiden in Madonna blue, Micaela, played by Lecia Robertson, has two poignant songs that act as a counterpoint to Carmen’s voluptuous lustfulness. Micaela’s goodness and enduring love for Don José is expressed in their sweet duet, in which Don José recalls his attachment to his mother and his village. He is duty bound to marry Micaela, but unfortunately, Carmen desires him and she will make him her next lover.

As Escamillo, the toreador and Carmen’s latest conquest, José CarbÓ did not disappoint, especially in his rendition of the opera’s signature aria, ‘Votre toast je peux vous le rendre’. In this he was ably accompanied by the rousing Opera Queensland Chorus, which made a major contribution throughout and rounded out this production.

The Spanish essence of Carmen is embodied in the Flamenco dancing that particularly sets the gypsy scene with its rousing and bold statement.  The seven official flamenco dancers in the cast, particularly the men, provided an exciting accompaniment for Carmen to dance sensually, in keeping with her ravenous gypsy daring. She is a coquette, she dances.

Treatment of the finale is dependent on the interpretation of the director. While this production ends with Carmen and Don José left lifeless on the stage, with Escamillo’s triumph sounding from the adjacent bullring, some have Escamillo, Carmen’s new love, emerging victorious from the bull ring and glowing with triumph, ready to embrace Carmen but finding death instead – the Greek tragedy of Don José and Carmen.

The opera Carmen is a jewel of perfection. There are no dull interludes that linger or drift off until the next soaring aria. Bizet has created wonderful tunes sprinkled liberally throughout the dramatic story.  He has composed a heavenly gift to all; Opera Queensland does a fine job of his Carmen.


Carmen and Don Jose

American mezzo-soprano Kirstin Chávez as Carmen with Ukrainian tenor Konstantin Andreiev as Don José: Photo by Branco Gaica.



Carmen turns up the heat tomorrow night!

Carmen Opera Queensland



This is my favourite opera. It’s the first opera I ever saw and it’s the only opera I never tire of hearing or seeing.


Also, I feel sure I was Spanish in a previous life. OLE!

26 and 30 October, 1, 3, 6, 8 and 10 November 2012 – Lyric Theatre, QPAC

After five weeks of intensive rehearsals, Opera Queensland’s production of Carmen will take to the Lyric Theatre stage tomorrow night, Friday 26 October, for a seven-performance Brisbane season.

This spectacular production from internationally renowned director Francesca Zambello stars stunning American mezzo- soprano Kirstin Chávez as the free-spirited gypsy rose, a role she has performed to great acclaim around the world.

“Playing the role of Carmen is a very special privilege and one that I do not take lightly,” says Chávez. “She’s not a role like other opera roles. She tests my very limits physically and vocally. Each time I bring her to life, I give my all, and when the curtain comes down, I feel that I have accomplished something worthwhile and presented a worthy gift.”

Bizet’s iconic tale of passion unfolds when a fight breaks out at a cigarette factory in a Seville square, and Carmen – a gypsy – is arrested by the soldier Don José. Carmen quickly seduces him but like many before him, Don José’s attempts to tame the freedom-loving beauty are futile. His obsession with her turns to murderous rage when she leaves him for the famous toreador, Escamillo.

The soul stirring music of Carmen is some of the most familiar in all of opera. From Carmen’s rich and provocative Habanera and seductive Seguidilla to the rousing Toreador Song, the score is full of fiery Spanish rhythms and popular melodies.

Making his Opera Queensland debut, French conductor Emmanuel Joel-Hornak, leads an exciting cast of international and Australian artists including Ukrainian tenor Konstantin Andreiev as Don José, Australian-based Argentinian baritone José Carbó as Escamillo and soprano Lecia Robertson as Micaëla, with the mighty Opera Queensland Chorus and Queensland Symphony Orchestra. Carmen is one of the greatest operas of all time – and a feast for all the senses.

Performances: Evenings 7.30pm: 26 / 30 Oct and 1 / 3 / 6 November Evenings 6.30pm: 8 November

Matinee 1.30pm: 10 November


Sung in French with projected English translations. Running time – approximately two hours and fifty minutes including one twenty-minute interval.

This production is presented by arrangement with Opera Australia.