Sadler’s Wells Theatre

CARLOS ACOSTA’S CARMEN at Sadler’s Wells Theatre


“a spectacular fusion of the traditional and modern, of classical opera and Cuban flavour”

Carlos Acosta’s Carmen is the choreographer and dance legend’s second adaption of Bizet’s classic opera, following a one-act production in 2015, and it sparkles with life, featuring the original music and additional compositions by Martin Yates, Yhovani Duarte and Denis Paralta. The Acosta Danza company, formed by Acosta to highlight the dancers of his native Cuba, deliver a spellbinding and tightly choreographed performance, led by the spectacular and emotive dancing of twin leads, Laura Rodríguez as the coquettish Carmen and Alejandro Silva as Don José, a soldier who falls madly in love with her.

The piece opens with a still scene, a man is crouched weeping over the body of a woman; other people stand around in shock, including the resplendently dressed Escamillo, a matador. From the large circular opening at the back of the stage, its circumference illuminated in orange and the centre a dusky blue, enters Acosta as the Bull – a character added by the choreographer that symbolises fate. In silence, the Bull drags Carmen and José to the front of the stage, stands them up, and places them into the positions that led to the death: José stabbing Carmen in a fit of jealousy over her relationship with Escamillo. This action will be repeated three times throughout the performance, emphasising the predestined nature of the event. In this way, the choreographer and company leader takes the role of on-stage director, reminiscent of the many hours of practice behind the final work.

The choreography throughout is elegant and the interplay between Carmen and José is wonderful. Scenes of flirtation, rage, entrapment and hesitancy are all vividly enacted as Rodríguez alternately draws in and repels Silva, the latter’s frustration becoming ever more pronounced until the piece’s climatic act of violence that brings us back to striking opening tableau. The contrast between this tumultuous entanglement and the simplicity of Carmen’s relationship with the matador is clearly evoked in both choreography and Tim Hartley’s staging. Gone is the dynamic between an aloof Carmen and beseeching José and gone is the comparatively elaborate set of José’s ornately designed bedroom. Carmen and the torero, performed by Enrique Corrales, dance together passionately, giving themselves to one another in a set devoid of other distractions, the unadorned nature of the scene reflective of their uncomplicated mutual desire.

Throughout, the staging is effective. The aforementioned circular opening evoking the burning Andalusian sun of the piece’s setting, with different projections within it, such as olive trees, adding further detail. A simple cage of bars stands in for a prison, and a set of tables and chairs with projected barrels behind becomes a bar. Working within this space, the dance corps are excellent. The flamenco influenced variation that opens the second act with an explosion is especially riotous and exuberant, exhibiting the skill of all the members of the group, with Zeleidy Crespo distinguishing herself.

This production of Carmen is a spectacular fusion of the traditional and modern, of classical opera and Cuban flavour and is a stunning showcase for the versatile Danza Acosta dance corps.

CARLOS ACOSTA’S CARMEN at Sadler’s Wells Theatre

Reviewed on 2nd July 2024

by Rob Tomlinson

Photography by Cristina Lanandez





Previously reviewed at Sadler’s Wells venues:

THE OPERA LOCOS | ★★★★ | May 2024
ASSEMBLY HALL | ★★★★★ | March 2024
AUTOBIOGRAPHY (v95 and v96) | ★★★ | March 2024
NELKEN | ★★★★★ | February 2024
LOVETRAIN2020 | ★★★★ | November 2023
MALEVO | ★★★★ | October 2023
KYIV CITY BALLET – A TRIBUTE TO PEACE | ★★★½ | September 2023
DANCE ME | ★★★★★ | February 2023
HOUSE OF FLAMENKA | ★★★★ | September 2022



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