'Carmen' reincarnated

Two classic ballets take to the stage in Valery Panov's latest artistic offering.

Two classic ballets take to the stage in Valery Panov's latest artistic offering. The renowned Russian choreographer's dance company presents his current adaptation of Bizet's tempestuous Carmen, prefaced by Chopin's idyllic Les Sylphides. Panov's most recent rendition of Carmen is "the same but different," he explains. Since his ballet's acclaimed world premiere three years ago, Panov has been adding more spice to the mix. "This," he says, "is a new production with a different cast, different choreography and different music in it." Set to Russian composer Rodian Shcedrin's Carmen Suite, this time the ballet includes Flamenco music. And Panov's corps de ballet is augmented by the Duende Flamenco Group of Jerusalem. Adapting the story line to a more contemporary time and place, Panov sets the scene in the opulent Spanish resort of Mallorca. There, a group of wealthy youngsters dabble in drugs, not tobacco smuggling; there aren't soldiers but narcotics agents; and Carmen is not a Gypsy but an upper-class young woman. However, the modern-day heroine still falls into the same fateful love triangle as the Carmen of yore. Making her debut at the May 18 performance at the Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center is Annette Birdina. "She is an unbelievable girl," says Panov of the Siberian-born ballerina. Les Sylphides, set to the music of Chopin by Russian choreographer Mikhail Fokine in 1908, is a Romantic, dreamlike piece, featuring 20 women and one man. For ballet enthusiasts, this will be a dream come true, as the male role is performed by Panov's electrifying principal dancer Valery Kuklachov. The May 18 performance will be attended by several dignitaries, Panov adds proudly. Among the invited guests are the ambassadors of the US, Lithuania, Germany and Belgium. Another source of pride for Panov is the financial support he is receiving from the Ministry of Culture. "My dance company is growing like the cosmos," he says. The dual bill will be performed at the Tel Aviv Opera House on May 18 at 8 p.m; Ganei Tikva - Merkaz Habama on May 31 at 9 p.m; Or Akiva Cultural Center on June 19 at 8:30 p.m; Holon Theater on June 21 at 9 p.m; and Haifa's Rappaport Hall on July 12 at 8 p.m. For information, call (08) 854-5158.