Carolina Ballet’s ‘Carmen’ a riveting tale of romance

By Logan A. White
Times-News correspondent

   It’s a rollicking tale of fiery romance, reckless escapades, and unabashed revelry — Carolina Ballet’s “Carmen,” which is being performed today, Saturday and Sunday at Raleigh Memorial Auditorium, 2 E South Street, Raleigh — has all the seductive flair and flavor of Spain.
Artistic director Robert Weiss’ artistic interpretation of Bizet’s opera by the same name, follows the twists and turns of the tangled affair between commoner Don José (Marcelo Martinez) and town seductress Carmen (Lilyan Vigo). Beginning his journey as a man too poor to marry his fiancée, Micaëla (Jan Burkhard), José sets off for the nearest town, determined to support his future wife by joining the military. In a valiant attempt to stay true to Micaëla, he deliberately ignores the flirtations and antics of the town girls. But flamboyant gypsy girl Carmen sees José’s cool nature as a challenge, and he becomes the sole focus of her romantic attentions. When he finally falls for her — an inevitable occurrence — it is a dangerous love, one that will consume them both. But will the wily Carmen be content with José, or will she wander in search of a fresh flame?
   Veteran ballerina Lilyan Vigo captures every fiery mood of Carmen, from her feisty streak to her calculated nonchalance. Her habanera solo is both seductive and deliberate: as Vigo becomes one with the music, she expands the music’s emotion into a character that lures both Don José and the audience. She’s sassy and frivolous, but isn’t afraid to show her dangerous side every now and then.
Marcelo Martinez seems both impassioned and recklessly immersed as Don José, making the transition from reserved and respectable to rogue and romantic in a way that keeps the audience riveted to his story. The chemistry created onstage between José’s two loves is unique and thrilling. Martinez’s pas de deux with Jan Burkhard is reminiscent of a simple love, elegant and innocent, while his Act II duet with Vigo is edgy, filled with passion and longing. Kiefer Curtis, however, is the ballet’s standout, wielding the effortless flair of Escamillo, a bullfighting troubadour, in spotless technique and stunning presence.
Alicia Fabry and Lindsay Purrington are frivolous and mischievous as Carmen’s friends, while Maxmilian Isaacson and Miles Sollars-White possess a riveting virtuosity as a duo of smugglers. The entire cast is flawless, capturing the world of Carmen with enticing ease. The Chamber Orchestra of the Triangle performs Bizet’s glorious and familiar score with verve, adding the final layer of Spain to a production that is, in a word — magnificent. Carmen pulls the audience in from the beginning, leaving them exhilarated and satisfied with a story that’s full of non-stop action and adventure.
   Showtimes are 8 p.m. today; 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday; and 2 p.m. Sunday at the Raleigh Memorial Auditorium, Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. South St., Raleigh. Tickets range from $30 to $89 and are available at all Ticketmaster outlets.

Logan A. White is a home-schooled junior and a Teens & 20s writer.

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