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Carmen [1962, Chicago, Civic Opera House]

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Film Identifier: F.2011-05-0005
Run Time
0h 16m 21s
Date Produced
Ruth Page has staged at least 4 versions of Carmen, all set to Georges Bizet's original opera music. The first version was choreographed and performed in 1926 at the Ravinia Opera. The second version, in which "Carmen" is transported to Civil War Spain, was choreographed by Ruth Page and Bentley Stone and premiered in Chicago at the Great Northern Theatre on February 1, 1939 by the Page-Stone Ballet. The version depicted in this film is likely the fourth version, shown here in rehearsal in 1962 at the Chicago Civic Opera. This version was debuted in Kalamazoo, Michigan on January 8, 1962.
The film opens with a view of a stage, full of dancers wearing primarily practice clothes. Just off center, two dancers occupy a table and chairs, apparently playing cards; elsewhere onstage couples share additional chairs. While these dancers remain stationary, a group of women in shawls dances as an ensemble throughout the rest of the stage. All those seated, except for the two men at the center table (apparently José and Captain Zuniga), soon join them. Then two women enter and attempt to seduce the men but after a little interest, both men then ignore the women and continue their card game. It becomes increasingly intense; soon the whole stage full of dancers are watching closely. José wins triumphantly and/or seems to catch his opponent trying to cheat and begins to start a fight with him; when dragged away he then refuses to join in the dancing with everyone else--instead, he starts another card game with someone else. The film soon cuts to a close-up of this new card game and then cuts back to another take of the previous interaction and continues from there. Eventually another woman--presumably Carmen--enters dramatically and begins a solo. A man in a Spanish-style hat then joins her for a pas de deux. After a few more cuts and more footage of her solo, during which she occasionally stops by the card table to flirt with the cards winner (presumably José), she is joined by José's original cards opponent (Captain Zuniga); her solo then continues until she becomes surrounded by men in Spanish-style hats. They lift her, in the splits, above their heads as a finale to her dance. When she lands again and the crowd disperses, she walks to the card table and begins flipping through cards; the crowd closes in to watch. She apparently wins, upsetting the José. Once everyone leaves, Carmen returns to José, throws her scarf around his neck, and begins to seduce him. The camera then goes black and cuts to a later scene, in which Carmen is now seducing another man, presumably Escamillo. This angers José, who then picks a fight with Escamillo in the middle of a crowd. In the fray, José accidentally stabs Captain Zuniga. As he dies on the ground, Escamillo escorts Carmen away and José begins to lash out, madly brandishing his knife; the crowd disperses and José falls to his knees in grief. The camera then cuts to a new scene, in which José wakes up with Carmen but she begins to flirt with two men who arrive. As she dances with the three in turn, making José increasingly jealous, a fourth man enters and gives her flowers. Together, the other three men pull Carmen away from him--in the next scene, he wakes up alone holding his dagger, suggesting that the previous scene was a dream. José then dances a paranoid solo, tosses the dagger away, and collapses on the ground. The film ends there.
Additional Credit
Bizet, Georges (is composer)
Page, Ruth (is choreographer)