In 1845 French writer Prosper Mérimée published novella Carmen telling the story of love, envy and crimes of passion. Thirty years later this story became the plot of widely recognized opera by Georges Bizet. Great success of the work fixed its position in culture of next century. Hundreds opera settings, dozens of ballet, dramatic and movie versions and thousands citations gave this work prominent position. The story is about Carmen, cigar factory worker and liberated woman, enchanting lover and independent person, and the story is in fact the perfect carrier of social criticism. Probably the best movie version of Carmen is film made in 1983 by Carlos Saura, Spanish director famous for his involvement in movies on dance and music subjects. It is significant, Saura’s debut was short film Flamenco made in 1955 when he was only 23 years old.
After successful career of avant-garde filmmaker in sixties and seventies, Saura turn to his first fascination making movies with dance and about dance. His great achievement in eighties were movies started by Bodas de sangre (Blood Wedding) a story joining poetry, dance and music in quasi-documentary narration about dance company working on flamenco adaptation of Federico García Lorca’s play. It was first unit of flamenco trilogy comprised Bodas de sangre (1981), Carmen (1983) and El amor brujo (1986). These three pictures focused on dance and choreography as essential elements of movie narration and became new standard in cinematic career of the dance. Next two decades Saura was developing his idea, creating his own style of musical film in Flamenco (1995), Tango (1998), Salomé (2002), Iberia (2005) Fados (2007) and many more. Carmen is the cornerstone of his creative output.
|Soundtrack Carmen (1983)|
The international success of Blood Wedding was best confirmation for the line of Saura’s artistic exploration. For his next movie he took story of similar dramatic potential and strong musical connection to the most famous opera related to flamenco music. Based on French novel and French opera spectacle shows profound sense of love and death. But Carmen was not just the second movie in this sequence; this film was quite different in its concept. Blood Wedding was based on contrasts between the story portrayed in spectacle and the life of working dance company. Carmen shows parallel emotions affecting the fate and interweaving events of play and playing company. The construction of the story within a story was known from the history of great literature and theatre. Of course it was also present in opera, where some ideas of short plays or music playing from inside the scene are traditional way of building the dramatic reliability. Carlos Saura adapted these foundations giving also some original improvements.
Production of flamenco dance and music version of Carmen was the first Saura’s project with choreographer Maria Pagès and musician Paco de Lucía. Artists became long time contributors in many Saura’s films. Main musical idea of this story is to connect dancers and drama characters to flamenco. Opposite to alive and vivid flamenco versions is original operatic rendition of Bizet’s score. Saura chose twenty years older, the 1963 recording from Grand Theatre de Geneve conducted by Thomas Schippers. This historic performance was bright of opera stars Regina Resnik as Carmen and Mario del Monaco as Don José. Next two presented in fragments choosen to Saura’s movie soundtrack were Tom Krause as Escamillo and Robert Geay as Zuniga. In this bright and famous recording participated L’Orchestre de la Suisse Romande (OSR) and Le Chor du Grand Theatre de Geneve. And what is due the flamenco musicians and movie makers, soundtrack is well harmonized and sounds coherently. Both of the planes intermingle around one double-story line. Maybe this record is mainly for flamenco and opera enthusiasts, but the movie is one must be known.