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Carmen (Tour Rehearsal) [1960]

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Film Identifier: F.2011-05-0174
Run Time
0h 46m 23s
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 third version, shown here in rehearsal in 1960. The film canister label indicates that this is a "light" rehearsal, which may explain the mostly-dim stage. This version of Carmen was premiered in Dubuque, Iowa at Clark College on January 11, 1960. It was performed by Page's Chicago Opera Ballet.
The film opens with a fairly distant view of a stage, fully decked out with a set--meant to be a cantina or similar--and dancers in Spanish-influenced costumes. Two men (apparently José and Captain Zuniga) sit at a card table at center; dancers mill about and perform dances around them. In addition to several ensemble dances (one including shawls), there are also two women who perform brief solos by the table. Soon José seems to lose but thinks Zuniga has cheated; he tries to start a fight but a woman stops him as others move their card table off to the side. While José sulks, Zuniga joins the group in dancing at center. Even when he his partner take a break, the rest continue with both single-gender ensemble dances and group/couple dances. Once they hit a final pose and the piano ends on a staccato note, a lone female figure (presumably Carmen) enters and the spotlight is trained on her. All move out of her way and, after tossing her dark shawl aside, she begins a solo dance, occasionally assisted by a group of six men in hats. She makes her way over to the table several times during her dance, apparently to flirt with José. When the solo is completed, everyone else on the stage gathers around her excitedly. She brushes them off and goes to the table to play cards; as she does so, the music becomes foreboding and a dark male figure who had been sitting in the shadows arises, slowly approaching her alongside the others, who are anxious to see her card game. He then reveals himself before her, opening his cape to represent 'the death card' before exiting. She shrugs off the bad omen as the others exit and flirts with José one final time before grabbing her shawl and leaving herself. Just as Carmen exits and leaves José alone in the cantina, another woman enters, apparently Micaela. José greets her with open arms and the two dance a loving pas de deux. Just as they reach the dance's tender conclusion, an allegro begins and Carmen bursts in with a gaggle of friends (all with shawls) to dance wildly about. A few men appear and wrangle them back out one by one, but José is struggling with Carmen. Eventually, he wrestles her to the table and ties her wrists behind her back, but she then circles him defiantly and begins a solo with her hands still tied behind her back; he pulls up a chair to watch her, soon rising to partner her even though she remains feisty. She soon manages to untie herself and then lands herself on top of José on the table and kisses him. He tries to resist this and her other advances, but fails and during the ensuing pas de deux the roles are reversed: he is on top of her. As they embrace again the death card reappears, suggesting that Carmen will die at the hands of José. Still, she ignores it. As their pas de deux comes to an end, a big group of people returns to the cantina. They spread out, and José and Carmen walk as a couple to a corner table and settle there. A man in white (presumably Escamillo) is carried to center and begins a regal solo in the spotlight; at one point, a group of adoring women joins him. He has clearly caught Carmen's eye, because she tries to him for a pas de deux immediately upon the completion of his solo. This greatly upsets José, who forcefully pulls her away. Her attempts to return to Escamillo spark a fight between the two men, and when Captain Zuniga tries to intervene, José accidentally stabs him with his knife. Dismayed, Carmen and Escamillo begin to leave together and José reaches after her as the curtain falls. José then runs onstage in front of the curtain, helped/pulled along by two other men. Overcome, he collapses on the ground as they leave him. After arising in consternation and confusion, he exits, and the curtain goes up to reveal José in prison. While there, he dreams of an angel of sorts (or perhaps Micaela), who enters stage and initiates a dreamy pas de deux with him. As they complete their dance, a trio of additional angelic women enters and they perform a lighthearted ditty, also fetching the couple to join in. After they exit, Carmen appears and thoroughly distracts José; the other woman, disappointed, seems to pray for him and attempts (but fails) to keep him away. She soon gives up, leaving José & Carmen to their pas de deux. Once this dance ends, however, a soldier/guard appears and Carmen begins to dance with him, warding off José in the process. He continues to chase after her but she continues to rebuff him, dancing instead with the two additional men who also enter. He soon becomes so tortured by her that he attempts to stab her, sees Micaela again momentarily, and collapses back onto his cot as the curtain goes down, signifying the end of the extended dream. In front of the curtain, two young men with what look like maypoles enter, dance briefly, and are followed in turn by other energetic young men and women who dance brief solos across the stage. Then all assemble and the curtain rises, leaving the 5 men (apparently matadors) to dance as an ensemble by a bull ring. Then spectators enter and one couple (perhaps Carmen and Escamillo) performs a pas de deux. All soon exit except for Carmen and two friends, who dance together and warn her that José may come to the bull ring. She ignores them, but betrays concern upon their exit. José himself soon enters, and Carmen is wary during his solo. This is followed by a pas de deux not unlike the one in his dream; Carmen repeatedly rebuffs him. But they are surrounded by figures in black, including the Death Card. Eventually, he strangles her with the same scarf she'd used to flirt with him back in the cantina. As she dies and he is overcome with what he has just done, the film ends.
Additional Credit
Bizet, Georges (is composer)
Page, Ruth (is choreographer)
Van Grove, Isaac (music)