Carmen the Cuban. Photo: Nilz Böhme / BB Promotion.
Carmen the Cuban. Photo: Nilz Böhme / BB Promotion.

Carmen dances the rhythms of Cuba

7 minutes / Marilyn Garbey

24.08.2018 / Reviews

Up to Havana arrive news of Carmen the Cuban, the musical that travels Europe with the rhythms of this island. Once again the rebellious woman unleashes the passions, and the Cuban rhythms take applause on the big stages.

Santiago de Cuba, located in the east of the country, is the place where events take place. Carmen is a worker in a tobacco factory and, as a guideline, the myth is the object of the desire of the men of the town. Daughter of an American soldier and a Cuban prostitute, the young girl provokes the conflict between a soldier and a boxer. His gifts of seduction, his transgressive attitude, the desire to choose his destiny with absolute freedom provoke the outbreak of the deepest emotions and lead, inevitably, to tragedy.

This Carmen that now occupies me carries the weight of tradition. Since Bizet adapted it as an opera in 1883, until today, in the XXI century, his heroine goes through life with overwhelming pace, charmed those who have the good fortune to stumble on their way. So much so that its presence in the most demanding places has become recurrent. From the flamenco airs that the dancer Antonio Gades and the filmmaker Carlos Saura put to him, and the Carmen Jones in the film played by Dorothy Dandridge and Harry Belafonte, to the ballet that Alberto Alonso rode for Alicia Alonso and Maya Pliséstkaya, and the choreography performed for men that Kenneth Kuavstrom created for Contemporary Dance of Cuba, Carmen seems unbeatable; from one century to the next, it still worries us.

Carmen the Cuban. Photo: Johan Persson / BB Promotion.

Carmen the Cuban. Photo: Johan Persson / BB Promotion.

A young singer, Luna Manzanares, is the one who assumes the leading role. Dressed in red, symbol of the most intense passions, with fan in hand and a beautiful and ductile voice, Luna is able to interpret diverse genres, knows how to move on stage, in dialogue with music, dancers, and the rest of the interpreters. She is one of the most vigorous presences in Cuba's music scene, having made a career as a soloist that continues to rise, collaborating with other musicians, interpreting themes of her authorship and the classics of Cuban music of all times.

Albita Rodríguez interprets the character of the Santera, becoming the main theme of the fable. Remembered here for his versions of the great themes of peasant music, to which he gave the necessary accent to connect with the young generations, his tributes to the great Celina González were recorded in the musical memory of the Island. However, we hardly have news of his career in the United States. This staging, in some way, gives it back to us.

Since 2015 we have been working on the assembly of Carmen the Cuban. Director Christopher Renshaw arrived in Havana to audition. He came preceded with the authority of having been nominated for awards such as Tony. Added the screenwriters Stephen Clark and Norge Espinosa, the choreographer Roclán González, the arranger and orchestrator Alex Lecamoire, deserving of the Tony and the Grammy, highly praised by the famous Hamilton. The design is carried out by the experienced British artist Tom Piper, all with the support of the German production company BB Promotion and other managers.

Carmen the Cuban. Photo: Nilz Böhme / BB Promotion.

Carmen the Cuban. Photo: Nilz Böhme / BB Promotion.

And it is that one of the distinguishing features of Carmen the Cuban, the confluence of talents from different parts of the world, different aesthetic signs, focused on one goal: to make a musical with rhythms of the Island. Cuban residents in Havana, Broadway Cubans, actors, dancers, writers, producers, musicians from the United States United; They joined in the first version of the show, which had its premiere at the prestigious Theater de Chatelet, in Paris, during the spring of 2016, with excellent reception from critics and audiences.

Music, of course, is the great protagonist. The soundtrack traces a wide spectrum of Cuban rhythms: mambo, habanera, chachachá, son, salsa, afrocubano, danzón, guajira. The contemporary sonority of the arrangements of Alex Lacamoire and Edgar Vero, played virtuously by an orchestra directed by Manny Schawartzman, but with the flavor and freshness of these genres, moved the most demanding ears. The choice of interpreters such as Albita Rodríguez and Luna Manzanares, women of different generations, Cubans here and there, who have inserted themselves in different ways in the incessant flow of the country's musical traditions, is not the result of chance. Together they show off the talent they have developed in their respective careers. The dancers, trained in Cuban art schools, famous for their technical rigor, are projected on stage with grace and precision, enjoying the dance and giving a touch of sensuality to the assembly. On that occasion, interpreters such as Emán Xor Oña (Sargento Moreno), Puerto Rican tenor Joel Prieto (José) and Portuguese soprano Raquel Camarinha, like Marilú, and Joaquín García playing Niño Martínez also stood out.

Cuba is renowned for its extraordinary musical traditions and the virtuosity of its performers, the list of figures that swell our sound heritage is endless. Also the theater made in Cuba is valued for the quality of its cultores, for its ability to dialogue with the environment and its willingness to include artists of other manifestations. That is why it becomes very difficult to explain why there is no musical theater in this country. Talent abounds, public specialty lover too. Financial resources are lacking, bureaucratic obstacles are lacking, management capacity is lacking, neglect is lacking, lack of drive, and discouragement. The truth is that musical theater, despite the efforts of theater people, does not flourish as we would like. In this crusade to return the musical to our stages, Norge Espinosa, one of the writers of Carmen the Cuban, has been vocal, demanding and proactive. That's why I'm happy to know that Norge is part of this cast and will share what he learned here with his colleagues.

Carmen the Cuban. Photo: Nilz Böhme / BB Promotion.

Carmen the Cuban. Photo: Nilz Böhme / BB Promotion.

Carmen the Cuban He began his tour in an improvised stage on the docks of the Havana port. There the public of the city could see it, to way still of workshop. In the Chatelet of Paris began the international tour that now extends to other European nations, with a cast that - by decision of the producers - is now entirely Cuban. They say that the posters with the image of Luna Manzanares adorned the Ciudad Luz, inviting the season of April 2016, in which 28 functions were performed. French applause was the driving force to conquer Germany and England, the next stops of a trip that aims, and may be, very long. Together with Luna Manzanares, our talents include Saeed Mohamed Valdés, Rachel Pastor, Jorge Enrique Caballero, Maikel Lirio, Frank Ledesma, Geidy Chapman, Laritza Pulido, Yordano Cárdenas and Cristina Rodríguez.

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Marilyn Garbey

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