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Hot Date: COC’s Carmen

Larissa Kostiuk in the COC's 2005 production of <em>Carmen<em> (photo by Michael Cooper)

The COC's 2005 production of Carmen (photo by Michael Cooper)

JANUARY 27 TO FEBRUARY 27 No one can dispute the enduring success of composer Georges Bizet’s final work, Carmen, perhaps the best-loved of all 19th-century operas. Set in Seville, Spain, this dramatic revival by the Canadian Opera Company tells of the rich culture of the gypsies and packs a plot riddled with sexual desire, moral ambiguity and a shocking finale. This passionate tale of obsession and love gone awry is sure to entertain. Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, $68 to $321; call 416-363-8231 or navigate here for times and tickets.

BONUS! On select weekdays, starting at noon, attend one-hour free performances in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre, located within the Four Seasons Centre. The special program features concerts and dance recitals by established and up-and-coming artists.

Two Dances of Striking Sensuality

Dancers of the National Ballet of Canada in <em>Skin Divers</em> (photo by Sian Richards).

Dancers from the National Ballet of Canada in Skin Divers (photo by Sian Richards).

Bold, passionate, visceral. Languid, graceful. Movement takes these and many other forms in the National Ballet of Canada’s compelling duo of Canadian premieres, Skin Divers and Carmen, on now through June 14 as part of the Luminato festival.

Skin Divers, a modernist suite of four pas de deux intercut with solos, trios, quartets and quintets, opens the program. Created by Canadian-born choreographer Dominique Dumais, it interprets two poems by award-winning writer Anne Michaels, whose evocative, intimate use of language seems ideally suited to physical invocation. Michaels herself provides a throaty (recorded) reading of the text that overlays Gavin Bryars’s haunting String Quartet no. 2; both words and music resonate throughout the hall, gliding from one note—and one utterance—to the next as the dancers engage in their exploration of nature and, according to the program notes, “the desire for flight above humanity’s essential groundedness.” A projected backdrop of naked female form adds another layer to the performance—accentuating its stripped-bare aesthetic, where artifice is abandoned and the essence of sound and movement revealed.

Carmen is a similarly pared down effort, focusing solely on the archetypal elements of its narrative—passion, sexuality, human nature—and the tumultuous affair between the mercurial title character and her pursuer, Don José. In this Davide Bombana-choreographed interpretation, the individual performances are uniformly torrid, high-energy affairs set alternately to Bizet’s familiar (and rightfully celebrated) score and pulse-pounding modern-industrial music, the latter of which serves to further emphasize the carnality of the proceedings. Indeed, aside from nods to the memorable musical motifs, none of the trappings of classical ballet are to be found here–all the better to expose the raw emotions of Carmen‘s fateful tale as it proceeds from its erotic opening steps to its shattering conclusion.

TIP! Arrive 45 minutes prior to showtime to enjoy a flamenco performance by Esmeralda Enrique Spanish Dance Company, in the Four Seasons Centre’s Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre.

June 6, 7, 8, 10 to 14, Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts (145 Queen St. W.), various times, $20 to $200. Visit the National Ballet’s website or the Four Seasons Centre box office to purchase tickets.

Luminato To-Do, Day Three

The passion of <i>Carmen</i> ignited the Four Seasons Centre stage (photo by Davide Herrero).

The passion of Carmen ignites the Four Seasons Centre stage (photo by Davide Herrero).


Carmen/Skin Divers

Some people like to give ballet a hard time, which is odd, when you consider that it’s a combination of exquisite choreography, beautiful music and finely tuned performers. If you count yourself a amongst unconverted, take a chance on the North American premiere of Carmen, featuring dancers from the National Ballet of Canada and acclaimed choreography by Davide Bombana. This production mixes passionate dance with Bizet’s famed score and elements of modern music,  and has been hailed as one of the ballet’s most daring and innovative interpretations ever. A dance piece inspired by the poems of Anne Michaels, Skin Divers, is also on the program.
Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts (145 Queen Street West), 2 p.m., $20-$200.

Raphael Mazzucco
One of the world’s most talented fashion photogs brings a new mixed-media installation to Toronto. Vancouver-born Raphael Mazzucco created a mash-up of photography, painting and sketching, then cast each of the large-scale results in a thick coat of clear resin, adding a textured sheen. The works, appropriately enough, are on display in the heart of the Queen West District, the city’s contemporary art mecca.
Burroughes Building (639 Queen St. W.), for the duration of Luminato, free.

Nederlands Dans Theatre Celebrates Jirí Kylián
Get off your feet, get into the dark and view an extraordinary film documenting three ballets co-ordinated by the Dutch dance master Jirí Kylián, and performed by the famed Nederlands Dans Theater. Part of the Luminato Reel series, the film includes excerpts from Birth-Day, Bella Figura and Sleepless.
National Film Board Mediatheque (150 John St.), 7 p.m., free.

June Hot Date—Two Shows by the National Ballet of Canada

The National Ballet of Canada interprets the poetry of Anne Michaels in <i>Skin Divers</i> (photo by Gary Beechy).

The National Ballet of Canada interprets the poetry of Anne Michaels in Skin Divers (photo by Gary Beechy).

JUNE 6 TO 14 The National Ballet of Canada offers two unique shows on one bill with its productions of Carmen and Skin Divers. Re-conceptualized by Italian choreographer Davide Bombana, this North American premiere of Carmen provocatively addresses the intensity of a love that can both devour and destroy. In the company premiere of Skin Divers—inspired by Can Lit darling Anne Michaels’ book of poetry by the same name—choreographer Dominique Dumais explores what she calls “the body as a living archive of experience, or a museum of memory.” Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, Wednesday to Saturday 7:30 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 2 p.m., $20 to $200; call 416-345-9595 to purchase.