Passion, romance and revolution on stage
Carmen, the legendary Gypsy woman first born in Prosper Mérimée’s novel and widely spread through Bizet’s opera, will again stage her love and pursuit in Shanghai, this time as a Cuban girl singing and dancing in authentic Cuban style.
Musical “Carmen la Cubana” starring Cuban singers Luna Manzanares Nardo and Saeed Mohamed Valdes will make its Asian premiere at SAIC Shanghai Culture Square from December 12 to 23.
It is not the first musical based on the well-known story, but it is the first time for the story to be set against the simmering turmoil of revolution in Cuba in 1958.
The creative team spent three months in Havana with Cuban performers and artists, preparing for the new musical, according to director Christopher Renshaw.
“It was a great experience to be surrounded by rich music and Santeria culture, which we use as important elements for the musical,” said Renshaw.
“Passion, romance, salsa and revolution compose the dreamy work for me as a musical director.”
Bizet’s classic scores are kept for the musical, while new orchestration was made by Tony and Grammy-award winner Alex Lacamoire, who is of Cuban origin. He mixed opera with salsa, mambo, rumba, cha-cha-cha and musical favorites like Habanera.
With a 14-piece Latin band and over 20 performers, the audiences will see how Carmen’s own fight for independence is found in the spirit of the Cuban Revolution.
Of course, audiences will still hear the hits such as “Amor,” “Hay un barcito en la esquina” and “La Flor.”
“Carmen represents the pursuit for love and freedom, which makes the story timeless,” said 28-year-old Nardo, who plays Carmen. “She is a hero not only for women, but everyone as to what a strong free person can be.”
Nardo, who began her musical career at the age of 9, is a star in Cuba.
The young singer has so far recorded 15 albums and featured in seven movie soundtracks.
Yet, Carmen is the first role she has tried to perform on stage.
“It was a bit hard to open up at first for a zero-experience actress like me. But I quickly found it interesting as I was discovering new things about myself. Both singing and acting are about interpreting feelings. All I need to do is to turn myself into a different artist.”
Saeed Mohamed Valdes, who plays Jose, is more familiar with singing characters on stage.
He considers himself in real life very different from Jose in the story.
“To be frank, I don’t think I will ever fall in love with a girl like Carmen in real life,” said Valdes.
Date: December 12-23, 2pm (Saturday and Sunday), 7:30pm
Venue: SAIC Shanghai Culture Square
Address: 597 Fuxing Rd M.
Tickets: 80-880 yuan
Saeed Mohamed Valdes and Luna Manzanares Nardo in “Carmen la Cubana”