Robert Tanitch reviews Carlos Acosta’s Carmen at Sadler’s Wells Theatre, London

Robert Tanitch reviews Carlos Acosta’s Carmen at Sadler’s Wells Theatre, London

1845 Prosper Merimée’s novel is published. 1875 Georges Bizet’s opera is premiered. Its clarity, vivacity, colour and melody have made it the most popular and frequently performed opera in the world.

There have been many versions of the story ever since. 1915 Charlie Chaplin’s silent film burlesque. 1943 Carmen Jones, the Oscar Hammerstein Broadway musical. 1949 Roland Petit’s tacky cabaret. 1954 Carmen Jones, the film, with the all African-American cast led by Harry Belafonte and Dorothy Dandrige.

Then there’s 1983 Carlos Saura’s flamenco film with Antonio Gadez. 1984 Francesco Rosi’s film with Julia Gimenez Johnson. 1992 Mats Ek’s ballet. 2000 Matthew Bourne’s The Car Man.

And now Carlos Acosta and his Cuban company, Acosta Danza, perform a new version of the Carmen he first created for Royal Ballet in 2015. He has extended his original one-act to a full-length ballet.

Laura Rodriguez is the gypsy. Alejandro Silva and Enrique Corrales are her rival lovers, a naïve decent soldier and a flashy arrogant toreador. The deconstructed music blares away distorting familiar songs.

The infatuation, passion, betrayal, jealousy, rage and murder which follow is not lurid enough. The excitement is provided by the ensemble’s energy in the tavern scene opening the second act.

Acosta’s innovation is the introduction of a new character, The Bull, a symbol of fate and destiny. He stands there initially, horns on head, silhouetted, encircled by a huge blood-red sun.

The knowledge that Acosta himself is playing this Minotaur makes the characterisation all the more disappointing. He has not given himself anything thrillingly muscular to do. The Bull is just a presence, surprisingly dull and uncharismatic.

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