CLEVELAND, Ohio – Cleveland Ballet is opening its ninth season on Friday, Sept. 22 and Saturday, Sept. 23, with “Carmen & Other Works” in Connor Palace at Playhouse Square. Both shows begin at 7 p.m. Tickets are available at: playhousesquare.org/events/detail/carmen-other-works or by calling Cleveland Ballet Ticketing at 216-320-9000 ext. 107.
“Each of the pieces represents a style of Cleveland Ballet,” says Artistic Director Gladisa Guadalupe. “‘Pas de Dix’ is pure classic, ‘Nocturne’ is neoclassical, and ‘Carmen’ is a little of everything-classical story with classical and contemporary movement.”
The night starts with a classic “Pas de Dix,” a short, plotless piece based on the grand ballet “Raymonda” and performed by five couples.
That is followed by the neoclassical “Nocturne,” a new piece based on compositions by composer Frédéric Chopin and choreographed by Cleveland Ballet Artistic Director Gladisa Guadalupe. Dancers will be accompanied by pianist Gerardo Teissonnière.
The highlight, a dramatic adaptation of “Carmen,” will end the evening. “Carmen” is an opera by French composer Georges Bizet. For the two shows, Carmen is played by Albina Ghazaryan, a third-year member of the company, from Armenia. Don Jose is played by newcomer Johan Mancebo from the Dominican Republic.
Carmen is a story of an alluring Spanish gypsy woman who is caught in an act of murder. She tries to save herself by seducing Don José. Driven by Carmen’s charm, Don Jose eventually does the unthinkable.
The performance will be accompanied by Daniel Rodríguez’s flamenco guitar and opera singers – Zoya Gramagin from New York and James Binion from Florida. The Cleveland Ballet Orchestra will accompany them.
As a new member of the company, Mancebo is excited to play Don Jose.
“This is the first time I am doing Carmen. For me it’s such an honor to do this role,” he says. “It’s a big challenge. It’s a challenge because of the technical and interpretation stuff. It’s about interpretation. He has sentiments of joy, confusion, disappointment. I’m trying to do my best.”
This is Ghazaryan’s third time in her career playing Carmen.
“I love Carmen. It’s one of my favorite parts,” she says. “Carmen, herself, is such a complex character full of love and hate. Every human feeling, she has. She’s very independent. The first and last thing is that she’s never going to lose. Even though she falls in love with Done Jose, she chooses her independence first.”
Ghazaryan prepares for the season by reading Carmen to immerse herself in the emotions, even though, she says, the ballet story is different from the books. Still, she’s read the story in three different languages —Armenian, Russian, and English.
“That helps me to fully be immersed in the role and fully understand,” she says. “They all sound different. They’re so beautiful.”
Choreography also affects how the story is told.
“Every choreographer is different and each of them brings something new,” she notes. “I try to play them all differently. This choreography is very unique. It’s really interesting. There’s so much emotion going on.”