Pros: A most stunning venue. Kolesnikova is wonderful and youngster Kseniya Kosava steals the show with her adorable mini solo.
Cons: If you’re looking for a dramatic dance with striking costumes, you’ll be pushed to find it here. The performance is underwhelming and in need of more excitement.
Standing in the centre of London’s glossy West End, the London Coliseum is hard to miss. For all you have to do is look up and there you will see its name written around the famous dome. This truly is a spectacular venue and the most perfect place to see a ballet. Even her Majesty the Queen’s box still remains, with the initials ER marking her spot. This was my first visit to the Coliseum and with all its grandeur, I couldn’t wait to see what was in store for me at this world premiere performance of Her Name Was Carmen.
An adaptation of Bizet’s opera, with English National Opera (ENO) orchestrating, The St Petersburg Ballet Theatre’s version of Carmen is set in a refugee camp. Fiery, rich and beautiful, Carmen is a deadly cocktail of passion and tragedy. After her family are brutally murdered, she disguises herself and sneaks into one of the camps to find shelter. There she befriends the refugees, playing ball with them and helping a little girl who has been separated from her mother. But it is here that she becomes entangled in a love triangle, leading to a devastating end.
Being a ballet, it is important that any plot line is explicit enough to allow the audience to follow the story. This production is quite tricky to track if you haven’t read the synopsis beforehand (which can be found in the program). At just under one hour and thirty minutes the performance felt quite rushed. There are moments which have so much potential but unfortunately are cut short and skipped over: the refugees’ fight for freedom being one of them.
The story is interesting and it was a brave decision to combine the two plot lines of the refugee crisis and the story of Carmen. However, enough doesn’t seem to have been invested into the subject matter and the combination actually causes friction, with both storylines fighting to be the more vocal. Still, there are moments that really do draw our attention to the crisis and are performed stunningly. The refugees trying to escape the metal barriers and the lone child crying out for her mother are two particularly stand-out moments which really do pull at the heart strings and make you think about these awful places.
Of course Irina Kolesnikova is stunning and her solo dance of the Habanera is boldly beautiful. Yuri Kovalev dances with passion and flair when dancing solo however when coupled with Kolesnikova the pair seem slightly lacking in confidence. Dmitry Akunlinin and Kolesnikova have much better chemistry together and their final duet is quite moving. Youngster Kseniya Kosava brings light to the stage when she innocently and ever so gracefully enters with her dolly.
Set is kept very simple with the lone projection of a changing sky, turning from bright blue to a moon lit black. Dancers are dressed in brightly coloured baggy culottes and blouses, and these rainbow coloured costumes appear incongruent and uninteresting.
The dancers perform beautifully and deserve every credit for their ability to dance however the choreography doesn’t feel dramatic enough during those crucial moments of love and fear. Any build up is cut short, leaving a sense of disappointment. The production would definitely benefit from being made slightly longer so as to achieve a more solid understanding of the plot. As a whole the performance is respectable and with some tightening up and more time invested into the choreography to give it more energy, this could be a really strong piece. But as it stands, it is slightly underwhelming.
Producer: St Peterburg Ballet Theatre
Music: Georges Bizet
Conductor: Igor Tomashevskii
Director: Elena Beliaeva
Orchestration: Murat Kabardokov
Libretto: Roman Smirnov
Choreographer: Olga Kostel
Booking Until: 28 August 2016
Box Office: 020 7845 9300
Booking Link: https://www.eno.org/whats-on/her-name-was-carmen/