Cuban ballet is an important part of the global dance world, and “Carmen Suite” is the most intriguing ballet of them all. Read on to find out more.
A long and controversial history
The 1967 ballet was based on an opera by Georges Bizet, written in 1875. The opera was inspired by a novella written by Prosper Mérimée in 1845, and attracted strong criticism for its sexual nature. Initially derided as an improper vehicle for promoting perverted sexuality, the opera slowly gained acceptance in polite society. These days it’s one of the most popular operas in history.
A similar trajectory would be followed by the ballet “Carmen Suite.” Created in 1967 by Cuban choreographer Alberto Alonso, it provoked significant controversy from the outset. Russian composer Rodion Shchedrin took the music from the Bizet opera and reconfigured it with new rhythms and instruments, as well as rephrasing it in an irreverent style.
En 1967 se estrenó en el Teatro Bolshoi de Moscú el ballet Carmen Suite. Interpretado originalmente por la legendaria Maya Plisetskaya, coreografiado por Alberto Alonso y con música de Georges Bizet 🌹50 años después cuesta creer que fue censurado y prohibido durante todo un año por su guión, coreografía y música desafiante para la época. En la foto Mizuka Ueno, bailarina principal del Tokyo Ballet✨ #ballet #berthadelapeña #carmen #carmenballet #dance #balletlife #ballerina #mayaplisetskaya #georgesbizet #carmensuite #ballethistory #mizukaueno
Soviet censors take issue with Carmen Suite
Following its 1967 debut at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, this reworking of the original opera attracted the attention of Soviet censors. The authorities deemed the ballet “disrespectful” to Bizet’s work, and banned it as a result.
It was performed only once before being replaced at the Bolshoi by “The Nutcracker.” As the years passed the Shchedrin score became more widely accepted, thanks in part to an endorsement from the renowned composer Dmitri Shostakovich.
Popular with contemporary audiences
These days “Carmen Suite” is still performed at the Bolshoi and the Ballet Nacional de Cuba, and it has become incredibly popular. It might have upset traditionalists on several occasions throughout history, but it remains an incredibly entertaining ballet that fizzes with sensuality and excitement.
Getting tickets to the Ballet Nacional de Cuba is fairly easy, and there are regular performances. It should cost you 30CUC for one person. Remember to dress smartly and be aware that shorts aren’t permitted inside the theatre.