Look What I Found On YouTube—Flamenco Carmen

By Norm Robins

Introductory comments

In the months of March, April, and May 2020 theaters all over the world went dark. They have tried to keep their companies alive and their audiences intact. It has been an uphill slog. They had one choice, a desperate one. Go dark, but dip into their libraries and stream the contents for free. They have done this, and to our benefit as viewers. It has been an effort on their part dripping with nobility. It has afforded us some of the most sublime theater ever.

Here in Northern Nevada our theaters have been dark, but we at www.renoarts.news have been unwilling to capitulate to the imperatives of a virus whose effects we detest. We have been carrying these streamed works of art to keep our publication going and our audience intact. At first the amount of streamed material was overwhelming.

Now the freebie streaming is starting to dry up as performing companies all over the globe find they can stream for a fee and pump up their revenues to keep themselves and their artists alive.

We are unwilling to be unpaid salesmen for these great groups. We will not stream content that comes at a cost. What to do? We have spent a lot of time on YouTube in the last three months, and we think we are getting good at it. Until our own theaters get back up and running, we are going to publish some of the great freebies still available on YouTube. How’s that for loyalty? We are going to call it, “Look What I Found On YouTube”, and we are going to start with Spanish flamenco theater. Here is our first entry.

On a personal note

On a personal note, in 1956 when I was 19, I was in photo intelligence with the U.S. Air Force. The Suez Canal was recently seized by Egyptian caudillo Gamel Abdel Nasser. I was deployed by President Eisenhower to Morocco as part of an expeditionary force to keep the invading British, French, and Israelis from permanently occupying the Canal. Eisenhower, like Truman and Roosevelt before him, hated colonialism and was determined to close it down.

One long weekend I took a leave and went by myself to Madrid, Spain. I stayed at a swank hotel, the Plaza. I spent the better part of the night at a tablau watching flamenco, saw a bullfight (to the chagrin of my wife), and visited the Prado art museum. It was more fun than any 19-year-old should have been allowed. And I fell in love with things Spanish including flamenco. I’m still am.

Carlos Saura’s and Antonio Gades’s Carmen

I’m not going to describe the story of Carmen. We have already done that with our write-up on the Bizet opera Carmen and to an extent on the ballet Carmen Suite. This is that story done by Saura and Gades performed at the Teatro Real in Madrid close to Carmen’s native Andalusia.

The story is the same with one exception. Don José doesn’t murder Carmen at the end. Her husband does. The husband also murders Don José. Egad, where did El Marido, the husband, come from? Truth be told I have no idea. But it’s okay. This is great theater anyhow.

To my mind opera speaks to me with sublime voices. Classical music speaks to me with musical instruments. Ballet speaks with body movement. Theater speaks with the spoken word. To understand flamenco you must let it speak to you with rhythms. If you simply watch, you might not understand the story. If you watch and listen carefully to the rhythms, they will tell you the story.

Saura brings many of his usual techniques to the screen. One of them is the use of mirrors, ordinary mirrors and fun house mirrors, the ones that distort reality. The plate glass mirrors give interesting visuals to a scene. But, seen in a distorting mirror, Carmen is not a pretty lady. I think that was his intention.

The music include much of the score of the original Bizet opera. It also includes flamenco music. The source of flamenco music is hard to pin down. It starts with the music of India where entertainers we call gypsies (or roma in their language Romany) were released by their owner, a maharaja, and set to wander far and wide. It includes much from Hebrew and Arabic music and music indigenous to the south of Spain.

Included in Carmen is Verde que te querido verde, green, green, I love you green, by poet Federico García Lorca from his poem “Romance sonámbulo”, sleep walking romance, published in his book Romancero Gitano, Gypsy Romancer. It is a staple in flamenco theater.

You can find this on YouTube at

You may have to move the ping pong ball at the bottom to 0:00. Unfortunately, this video clip included ads. Ah well, c’est la vie.

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