Review: St Petersburg Ballet Theatre with the orchestra of the English National Opera:
The St Petersburg Ballet Theatre have chosen to create awareness of the largest refugee crisis since the second world war, by using the setting of a Syrian refugee camp and the timeless themes of hope and suffering and a desire for a better life in this original adaptation of Bizet’s famous opera Carmen, with English National Opera (ENO) orchestrating.
Starring Irina Kolesnikova, the Prima Ballerina of the St Petersburg Ballet Theatre as the fiery, passionate Carmen, a beautiful evocative dancer whose interpretation captures and intoxicates the hearts of the men in this, almost too short production, of one hour and forty minutes.
In a relatively easy to follow narrative, our heroine Carmen disguises herself as a boy and sneaks into one of the camps to find shelter, where she befriends and plays ball with the refugees and the friendly volunteers, helps a little girl who has been separated from her mother. Carmen gets the attention of Jose played by Dmitry Akulinin a police officer and security guard at the camp, immediately smitten, he quickly falls deeply in love with her. Meantime a bare- chested Garcia, played by Yuri Kovalev, the former head of security for Carmen’s father who was fired and is now pursuing Carmen, arrives with his men, think greedy, aggressive and arrogant city boys in suits. But it is here that she becomes powerfully entangled in a love triangle, which leads to a tragic and devastating end.
The staging was simple, using backdrops of bright to muted skies, highlighting the stunning, rich coloured costumes of the refugees, which I rather liked as it gave them each an individual status and lit up the otherwise fairly stark stage. The only set was the movable metal fences, used to weigh down the refugees and obstruct their way, thereby symbolising their burdens, restraints and the desperateness of their plight.
However, I felt that although it was a brave attempt to use such a prevalent crisis in this production it somehow never really gave it the credence and understanding it so deserves.
The overall ballet was a little lack luster. Olga Kostel’s choreography was indistinctive, although I was more impressed with the duets, Carmen and Jose created an expressive and passionate longing, whereas Carmen and Garcia’s duet was more sexy, tortured and evocative. Kseniya Kosava played the young girl with exquisite innocence and charm and I was genuinely moved by her performance.
Musically I was captivated, ENO’s performance of memorable tunes such as ‘Habanera’ and ‘Toreador’ were more than familiar and within the beautiful setting of the London Coliseum and all its grandeur I was assured of a spectacular night out.