The flamenco film version of Carmen came out in 1983; it was a collaboration between Antonio Gades and the director Carlos Saura and is the second film in Saura’s ‘flamenco trilogy’.  


The stage version of the production had been premièred on 17 May 1983 in Paris, performed by Antonio Gades and Cristina Hoyos. Although in performance Cristina Hoyos danced the part of Carmen with Antonio Gades as José, in the film version the part of Carmen was danced by Lara del Sol because of her youth and beauty. It was a decision, which caused difficulty. One could not compare the dancers; of course Lara del Sol dances very well but Cristina Hoyos was on the same level as Antonio Gades and they had performed together for many years. However, that tension certainly comes in useful in the powerful fight scene in the cigarette factory between Cristina Hoyos and Lara del Sol’s characters.

The film has a storyline built around the production of a flamenco performance of Carmen, and so we can enjoy the ‘behind the scenes’ rehearsals and tensions of preparing a show. This is something Carlos Saura is particularly fond of – showing the process of the creation of art. In this scene from the film, Antonio Gades speaks of his feeling for Farruca.

The story of Carmen was first written by Prosper Mérimée; his novella was published in 1845. This story was then noticed by the French composer Georges Bizet, using just one art of Mérimée’s work and slightly altering the story, he created the opera Carmen.

Although we might expect that the opera Carmen, which is so popular today, would have been well-received at its première on 3 March 1875 at the Opéra-Comique in Paris, sadly this was not the case. The first few acts went well, but Bizet did something quite unheard of in his time during the fourth act – he had the heroine die on stage! This was shocking for the audience, who at that time went to the theatre and opera to be ‘entertained’. Unfortunately Bizet died three months after the première at the age of only 36.

If you haven’t seen the opera, perhaps a look at Act IV, might be a good prelude to the flamenco version, particularly the very end of that Act, performed by Julia Migenes as Carmen and Plácido Domingo as Don José. One can see the force of Bizet’s original and why it has inspired so many to create their own Carmens.

© 2010 Thérèse Wassily Saba