Sadler’s Wells, London
August 2, 2018
Carmen La Cubana, a Cuban reworking of Bizet’s famous opera, is the big new show at Sadler’s Wells this month. Set against the turmoil of revolution in Cuba in 1958, it’s sexy yet sophisticated, featuring the classic score supplemented with authentic Cuban numbers, all inspired by Oscar Hammerstein II’s Broadway hit Carmen Jones. Set against the Cuban backdrop, new life is breathed into the music and the fresh take on the narrative is exciting.
The show certainly sizzles, mixing opera with salsa, mambo, rumba and cha cha cha, and including musical favourites such as ‘Habanera’. At times the vocals and dance content are a little unbalanced, though. While the score swoops and soars, the dancers are not showed off as much as they could be. They seem a little under-appreciated in their springing jumps and easy, relaxed turns, the latter in abundance with not a single attitude turn in sight, always doubles and triples.
Carmen La Cubana is simultaneously full of romance and danger. The large company work as one to produce an authentic air. The band plays live on stage, often amongst the action, adding to the show’s all-encompassing nature. All dialogue and vocals are in Spanish (with subtitles), and it is easy to slip into the feeling of being a fly on a wall as one watches the frustrations and flirtations taking place on stage. It is easy to feel transported to the streets of Havana, so enticing is the performance.
The protagonists are full of energy and life. Carmen, played by Luna Manzanares Nardo, is fierce and staunch in her beliefs. The original femme fatale, she stands by her beliefs and stays true to herself until the very end.
Complementing the action is the flow of choreography, although more would have been very welcome. The dancers slipp easily between the choreography and the closely woven narrative, supporting the latter. They are seductive at each opportunity, echoing Carmen’s seemingly preferred method of communication.
Carmen La Cubana is full of vigour and passion. A sultry take on one of the most famous operas ever created, it does not disappoint.
Carmen La Cubana is at Sadler’s Wells to August 18. Visit www.sadlerswells.com for details.