SULTRY, sexy and quite atypical of the more commonly encountered characters in the world of classical ballet, Shchedrin’s Carmen is a modern, chain-smoking, promiscuous temptress.
In a first for the Irish Chamber Orchestra, they are combining with renowned company Ballet Ireland to bring a fully orchestrated, open air production of Carmen to the Milk Market as part of City of Culture.
The one act show, originally performed by the Bolshoi in 1967 - and based on Bizet’s classical opera - is brimming with energy, scored for string orchestra together with a massive percussion ensemble, all of which should make for an ‘mind blowing’ performance later this May.
A sprung stage - courtesy of Riverdance - will be ringed by elevated seating for 500 people, with the orchestra in full view as the dancers perform what Ballet Ireland choreographer-in-residence Morgann Runacre-Temple describes as “a modern story, told in ballet”.
“I think probably the general idea about ballet if you haven’t seen it before is that is kind of tutus, silks and tiaras - your Sleeping Beautys and Nutcrackers,” she admits.
“But Carmen as a ballet, the role of Carmen, she is such a stand alone female character, a real 21st century woman. It is really earthy and the live guitar, live music - integrating flamenco clapping and rhythms - and a crossover of dance styles make it a really sexy story, and violent as well.
“You wouldn’t see a character like Carmen on a classical, ballet, traditional 19th century stage. But it has also got the kind of beauty and form and is performed by classical dancers as well, so it is really interesting,” she adds.
For the UL based ICO, it is the continuation of a sort of diversification, coming fast on the heels of a performance of an original piece of theatre with actor Bosco Hogan in the Lime Tree in February.
“I am really excited, it is something I really wanted to do for a long time,” says CEO Gerry Keenan.
“We first came across the piece with Gabor Takács-Nagy - our conductor - and that was just the orchestral version, but it was obviously written for the ballet.
“The big problem is to put the two together; ballet should always be live dancers, live orchestra, but they can never afford the orchestra and vice versa. So it had a nice serendipity about it really, and the City of Culture presented itself.
“We collaborate with choirs obviously but we are trying to do all sorts of different things. We are trying to diversify, make it accessible, we are living in very difficult times, everyone is chasing the same box office, so we are trying to give people what they want.”
Gerry says the Milk Market was the “obvious choice” as an urban venue for the massive production.
“The beauty of this is artistically it is fabulous, everyone knows the music from Carmen and I think they will find the ballet very dramatic,” he says.
“I thought putting in the raised seating, whilst desperately expensive, we just had to do, because you have to see it, you have to see the dancers.
“It had to be covered. We played in the Milk Market once on a Sunday afternoon about three years ago and it has great acoustics.
“It is a gorgeous set-up, you have your strings and then a battery of percussion, five players, so it is quite spectacular and they run around and work hard.”
Percussionist Alex Petcu says Carmen is “an attractive piece to be involved with as a musician”.
“A lot of people know the tunes, but in this version they are done in a slightly different way. It is a spectacle for the audience,” he says.
Ballet Ireland will be in Limerick for nearly two weeks, rehearsing with the ICO, as Morgann explains, to allow “the dancers to get used to dancing with live musicians because it is very different”.
“I think it has got everything - you should leave the theatre...it should feel like a real experience. I hope the audience will be engaged, it is going to be quite immersive,” she explains.
“You are not just going to be sitting at the front of the stage and watching it - the curtains are not just going to open and you sit there for an hour and a half in the dark - you are going to be sitting all around and you will feel like the dancers are part of the audience.
“There will be musicians at the side, there is going to be lots of people involved in the show between them and the dancers, so it should be mind blowing,” she adds.
Carmen takes place in the Milk Market on May 29-30. Tickets are €20/18/10. Booking on 061-331549 or at www.uch.ie.