Rehearsals for our 17/18 season opening production of Carmen are in full swing.
In addition to hearing wonderful singers perform the opera’s many hits like “Habanera,” we get to watch talented dancers tell Carmen’s story through flamenco.
These dancers are led by Spanish choreographer Nuria Castejón, whose career as a dancer (working for acclaimed Ballet Nacional de España and Compania Antonio Gades) evolved into a long-standing career as an opera, theater, and film choreographer. While Castejón has worked on many plays and as Penelope Cruz’s dance advisor on the Pedro Almodóvar film Volver, opera holds a special place in her heart.
“I adore opera,” says Castejón. “My parents were actors and lyric singers. They did a lot of operetta and zarzuela – sometimes even working with Plácido Domingo’s mother.”
Castejón brings this love of opera to every production she choreographs.
This includes classics like The Barber of Seville, Luisa Fernanda (with which she made her LA Opera debut in 2007) and now to Carmen.
When asked about her choreographing process, Castejón says, “It all starts with the director.” She continues, “Sometimes the director wants a dance to tell the whole history of the opera through movement. Other times, I’ve created a dance where one dancer represents Carmen’s journey.”
For our production of Carmen, Castejón is choreographing multiple flamenco numbers that represent the desire of director Ron Daniels to bring Seville to life on stage.
The dance at the beginning of Act II is a perfect example of this vision.
In the scene, Carmen and her friends – Frasquita and Mercédès – are at an inn on the outskirts of town. It’s a lively moment of singing and dancing that showcases who these free-spirted characters are. For this moment, Castejón choreographed a bulería, a very wild, and fast flamenco rhythm in 12 beats. The flamenco – a dance born and perfected in Spain – roots audiences in the world of the opera. The 12-beat bulería showcases Carmen’s power, intensity, and most of all, how she and her friends feel comfortable being themselves in this moment in the opera.
The flamenco numbers in Carmen are all powerful and wild like the dance at the beginning of Act II. They showcase how much freedom Carmen has and desires over the other characters in the opera. (She is the ultimate free-spirt, after all.) Of this, Castejón says, “As human beings, we are attracted to that freedom; it’s emotional.”
Through her choreography, Castejón hopes to bring that emotional experience to audiences watching Carmen.
To purchase tickets to Carmen and see Nuria Castejón’s choreography, click here.LA Opera is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to the greater good.