“Love is a rebellious bird that nobody can tame. And you call him quite in vain if it suits him not to come. Nothing helps, neither a threat nor a prayer ….. Love! Love! Love! Love! ….. Love is a gypsy’s child. It has never, ever, known a law. Love me not, then I’ll love you. If I love you, you’d best beware!“
These simple love lines are from one of the most prominent operas of the 19th century. “Carmen” is a four-act opera masterpiece composed by the great French composer – Georges Bizet. After the libretto was written by Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy, the opera was first performed on March 3, 1875 in Paris.
Speaking about the libretto, it is based on Prosper Mérimée’s novella of the same name. The intriguing plot tells the story of a young and very beautiful gypsy girl from Seville, called Carmen. She is extremely passionate and freedom-loving, and her hot blood attracts Don Jose. The girl and the soldier fall crazily in love with one another and the young man completely forgets and ignores his military service and duties. He is obsessed by his strong feelings for her only. Unfortunately, Carmen’s temperament throws her into the arms of a Toreador and she forgets her first lover. Don Jose cannot bear her betrayal and kills Carmen for whom freedom is dearer than anything else, even than her life.
This is the story briefly. Although it looks too trivial at first sight, it is not. The love triangle between Carmen, Jose and the Toreador symbolizes the never-ending conflict between freedom-lovers, on the one hand, and traditionalists, on the other hand. The gypsy girl was born free and she dies free. The traditional society of people who hide themselves under masks stands just on the opposite pole. She expresses her freedom all the time while they are afraid of any manifestation of free spirit and independence, and any difference from themselves scares them greatly.
All these in-built ideas were cunningly expressed by Rodion Konstantinovič Ščedrin. The Russian composer and pianist staged Carmen-Suite as a ballet performance at the Moscow Bolshoi Theatre on April 20, 1967. The ballet of one act only, dedicated to Maya Plisetskaya, was choreographed by Alberto Alonso and since its very performance, it’s been a triumphal ballet performance touring the world’s opera theatres and stages.
I will end up this post saying few words about the grand Russian prima ballerina, choreographer and actress – Maya Plisetskaya (November 20, 1925 –May 2, 2015). She is one of the master ballet dancers of the 20th century along with Galina Ulanova and she is a “different” ballerina. Among her most acclaimed performances (also as a soloist) are Odette-Odile (in The Swan Lake), Aurora (in The Sleeping Beauty), Carmen (in Carmen-Suite), and so on, and so forth. Maya Plisetskaya’s ballet technique and artistic presence, charisma and talent, changed the world of ballet entirely and forever. Undoubtedly, she deserved the title – “Prima Ballerina Assoluta” of the Bolshoi Theatre awarded to her in 1960, after Galina Ulanova left the ballet stage. Grand choreographers like Yury Grigorovich, Roland Petit, Alberto Alonso, etc. created ballets for her. Also she herself was a choreographer and played leading role in Anna Karenina. After having said all of the above, I would only add one last thing. Pierre Cardin has fully assessed Maya Plisetskaya by saying: “She is an incarnation of the Dance. She is a symbol of the Russian culture. She is a symbol of Russia.”