QPAC Playhouse (Queensland Ballet)


Choreographed by Francois Klaus

Music by Georges Bizet

Professional production

The Queensland Ballet’s treatment of Carmen is a passionate, engaging work. Choreographer and artist director, Francois Klaus, adds subtlety to the work by going back to the original novella by Prosper Merimee.

The lead role of Carmen, normally danced by Rachael Walsh, was performed on this occasion by Amelia Waller, who brought real joy and flair to the part. In a world where matadors were revered and soldiers obeyed, she dominates with sensual power as the defiant gypsy working in the tobacco factory.

The strength of Carmen’s zest for life rather overwhelms the soldier, Don Jose (danced by Zachary Chant), from the moment she throws a flower at him and tears him away from dreaming about his home in the Basque country. Similarly, the matador Escamillo (danced by Alex Wagner), falls under her beguiling spell.

The set design by Graham Maclean is uncluttered and dramatic, complementing the skilful use of colour by costume designer Noelene Hill, and lighting designer David Walters. Many productions of Carmen are choked with enough red and black for a Marxist anarchist convention or a Gregory Terrace Rugby game, but fortunately in this production, the use of colour is a little more subtle. Green foliage, blues and browns helped to transport us to the banks of the Guadalquivir River in Spanish Andalusia.

The corps de ballet danced engagingly as gypsies and as folk from the village, and the scenes in the tobacco factory, especially, bristled with a genuine intensity.

Why does passion so often lead to violence? In the tobacco factory, Carmen slashes Rosita’s face with a knife. Don Jose starts the drama as a thoughtful young man but goes on to kill his lieutenant, later kills Carmen’s gypsy husband and finally kills Carmen herself. The sweet, innocent character of Micaela (danced artfully by Claire Phipps) offers comfort to Don Jose in his anguish, but his affection for her is overwhelmed by his obsession with the fiery Carmen.

Bizet’s hauntingly beautiful and familiar opera score is used throughout the ballet, supplemented with other works by Bizet, some orchestrated and some for guitar alone, thus giving a truly Spanish effect which only a Frenchman could achieve. But it’s a shame that, despite Australia being in the greatest minerals boom since the 1850s gold rush, governments cannot find enough money to allow the Queensland Ballet to have a live orchestra for the performance of this timeless ballet.

Playing 18th May to 2nd June 2007

Running time: 2 hours, 15 minutes (including 20 minute interval)

— Matt Foley
(Performance seen: Thu 24th May 2007)