The theater version of Carmen began to take shape almost at the same time as the filming of the movie by Carlos Saura. The movie's success, which took even the creators of the miracle by surprise, undoubtedly encouraged Antonio Gades to stage the theatrical version, a masterpiece of Spanish dance that he subsequently added to his repertoire, which already included two massively significant works, Bodas de Sangre and Suite de Flamenco.
The Parisian premiere in 1983 was a resounding success with both critics and the audience alike, definitively securing Antonio Gades his place among the world’s most important dancers and choreographers.
The reasons behind Antonio's decision to produce this creative project are summarized in a series of ideas that he discussed at the different press conferences he gave. In his opinion, Carmen is not a frivolous woman or a man-eater, she is an honest woman who's not afraid to say when she loves and when she doesn't. That is: a free woman. “I don't think she's that, a man-eater. Carmen has a concept of class, she doesn't keep her feelings to herself. When she loves she says it and when she falls out of love as well. Moreover, her concept of freedom is such that she'd rather die than lose it. They always treated her dismissively and presented her as a man-eater, but Carmen has something crucial that is quite different than everything else: her concept of class and her nobility”.
In terms of the theatrical version's worldwide success, Antonio would cite the criticism in France, which said that “Merimée took Carmen to France, but we brought it back to Spain. Carmen has almost always been treated in a rather superficial and dismissive way, and Carmen is much deeper than that. The great dancer did not hesitate to say that Carmen was misunderstood, because when the work was written in 1837, the character shocked the straight-laced crowd, who failed to see that she represented the true emancipation of women. Don José is a fugitive, a rich man who betrays his class and breaks its rules. He has that ingrained concept of love as private property. I did Carmen because I didn't like that stereotyped and false image she has, a woman who unhesitatingly gives her all when she loves, who does not betray her class even if she is in the highest spheres.
- The curtain is closed and Bizet's Overture is playing.
There is light on the stage. Ready for the end of the overture.
- La clase Guitarras por soleá
The curtain opens and the company can be seen getting ready for a class. The instructor (Don José) enters and teaches the class.
When he finishes the members of the company relax, and little by little they retire to the tables.
- Presentaciones Seguidillas (Bizet)
The characters are introduced: the Bullfighter, the Husband, Don José and Carmen. After the introduction, Carmen stays in the center of the stage.
The women walk ahead of Carmen, insinuating the next scene.
- Tabacalera Guajira y Tangos
Carmen sits, and the tangos begin: No te arrime a los zarzales, No te metas con la Carmen: The fight between Carmen and Manolita begins.
- Pelea Soleá por Bulerías
Real start of the fight is marked by the change in beat. The end is marked by the stabbing.
- Carmen is arrested. Redoble guitarras
The soldiers arrive. Don José arrests Carmen.
- Pas de deux by Don José and Carmen. Adagio guitarra
Carmen seduces Don José and he sets her free.
- Don José arrested and Carmen mocked. Verde (Lorca-José Heredia)
Don José is arrested by a sergeant, his stripes are taken away. Carmen appears walking in front of the jail with a group of friends, partying, singing the Verde.
- Jail. Adagio guitarra
After finishing the Verde, the adagio plays and Don José dances the Solo de la Cárcel. Carmen appears, seduces him, and takes him away.
- Preparación de la cama Verdial
The women use the chairs and tables to make a bed, setting up the scenery for the next scene.
- Paso a dos Habanera (Bizet)
Don José and Carmen enter. Carmen takes Don José to the chair, removes her comb in front of the mirror, gets ready and goes to him. La Habanera is danced. Final: dark.
- Fiesta Fiesta por bulerías
In seconds, between the end of the pas de deux and the light, the ring of seats for the party is set up. Order: Female, Male, Female. Don José and Carmen.
- Los Tópicos: Seguidillas y Toreador (Bizet)
The end of the song marks the beginning of the joke.
- Seguidillas: Carmen appears with a comb and shawl. A group of men cheer her on.
- La Mariquita: Stereotypical Spanish joke between Carmen and a man.
- The pretend bullfight: Bullfighter, bull, horse and picador stage a humorous bullfight. At the end of the bullfight the entire company goes to the center, jeering the bullfighter and the bull and throwing clothes at them.
- The Husband enters, tapping his feet
A tapping marks the entrance of the Husband. Everyone turns to him, looking at each other wondering who he is, and ignore him. The Husband insists, a singer starts singing sevillanas: Los amores son terribles. Everybody sits down.
- Bullfighter - Don José - Husband triangle. Adagio guitarra
This adagio represents each man's attitude towards Carmen. The tavern is built when the song ends.
- The tavern - Card game. Martinete
Don José and the Husband play cards, while a martinete is sung at another table. The game ends in a fight.
- Fight between Marido and Don José. Seguiriyas (rhythm with sticks)
A group of men with sticks gathers and accompanies the fight between Don José and the Husband. Don José wins. Carmen throws away her wedding ring and leaves with Don Jose. Sings: El remedio. Dark.
- The Bullfighter and Carmen. El Gato Montés (M. Penella)
A popular party where the pasodoble is danced. The Bullfighter's arrival is celebrated by all. He invites Carmen to dance and Don José pulls her away. Silence falls. Two groups form.
- Las dos fiestas Sevillanas / Tangos
The Bullfighter is in one group and Carmen with Don José in the other. The first sings tangos, the other interrupts with sevillanas. The Bullfighter's group approaches the other group and, singin the Verde, takes Carmen. Don José follows them and once again pulls Carmen away. The soleá enters and a Bullfighter - Don José - Carmen triangle is formed.
- Duelo Torero / Don José Soleá / Mirabrás
The dance of the Bullfighter's group is accompanied by the soleá. The group of Don José, by the Mirabrás. Carmen rebels, the public cheers her on. Don Jose takes her away and the Bullfighter retires.
- Death of Carmen. Final ópera (Bizet)
Don José takes out the knife and, encouraged by all, kills Carmen. The final chords of the opera mark the end of the ballet.
- Storyline, choreography, lighting:
- Antonio Gades and Carlos Saura
- Scenery design:
- Carlos Saura
- Ballet inspired by the work by Prosper Mérimée
- Gades, Solera, Freire
Georges Bizet Carmen
M. Penella El gato Montes José Ortega Heredia/Federico Garcia Lorca Verde que te quiero verde
- Recorded music:
- Orchestra della Suisse Romande conducted by Thomas Schippers, with Regina Rosnik, Mario del Monaco, Tom Krause.
World premiere: May 17, 1983, Théâtre de Paris.
Duration: 80 minutes without intermission.