Antonio Gades, among many other lessons, left us a very important one regarding the narrative ballet of Spanish dance: what can be told in 15 minutes cannot and should not occupy an hour of scene. Probably, The Beautiful Otero, a ballet inspired by the biography of the star Carolina Otero and premiered last Wednesday at the Teatro de la Zarzuela in Madrid, it would have been less disastrous with a duration of 55 minutes. It is crazy and unfair to keep the public in their seats for two and a quarter hours.
It would seem easy to say here that you cannot order pears from the elm, but it is true paladin. The team of this great failed production – with choreography by Rubén Olmo, musical direction by Manuel Busto and dramaturgy by Gregor Acuña-Pohl – tries to be very modern, when the result is a trip back in time blindly and stumbling on a muddy terrain , childish, even with streaks of bad taste. The wardrobe is an exercise in “styling vintage” cumulative and impractical; the scenography, a want and can not “like opera” difficult to handle for tours.
The real beginnings of the icon of the Belle Époque Carolina Otero, an element of vaudeville that must be outlined and valued in a specific context, are still hazy and must be sought in the United States, on the New York-Boston-Chicago axis, his first stage after fleeing the Peninsula. What of the La Belle Otero Parisian came later with a series of influential events in the middle, for example, the fierce rivalry with Carmencita (Carmen Dausset, sometimes presented as “Carmencita, La Perla de Sevilla”) much more famous then and from where Otero copied her stage profile, your model; We can get an approximate plastic idea from the paintings that William Meritt Chase (Metropolitan, NY) and John Singer Sargent (Orsay, Paris) painted him. The sanguine approach to Carmen de Merimée / Bizet had already been made by Carmencita long before Otero, as well as the fan dance (fan dance with message) and the exotic “Gitana de los Sortilegios”. There are more stories, a lot of transparent fabric.
So much mythomania (of a box and a brothel) in between, that it is very difficult to extract the genuinely biographical nature of this hustler whose success and peak was at the same level as her fall and ruin (calling Carolina a “ballerina” is still a thick joke). Otero was famous for recounting several different versions of the same events, for example, his encounters with Rasputin, which Olmo turns into a snort scene, copying almost everything (throne and characterization included) from Soviet originals and from the Rasputin, the Holy Devil (Fort Worth Ballet, Texas, 1978) by James Clouster. There are many other things in this show of the National Ballet of Spain (BNE) whose originality can be discussed, such as the initial procession, which reminds too much and too much of Dew by Antonio Ruiz Soler (Monumental Theater, María Rosa Company, 1986).
In 1893 the striptease and Carolina Otero appropriates that soft porn pseudopantomime, advertising titles like Yvette goes to bed. Olmo wants to represent something like this, but he stays on the surface, on the topic. His scenes lack sensuality, humor and perhaps a certain irony. Consider that even Marcel Proust seems to have opted for some Otero traits to create his Odette de Crécy de In Search of Lost Time (Charles Swann’s kept), from the waist –wasp silhouette– down to the strategically loose locks of her hairstyle, a chance of deliberate carelessness.
The ballet seen yesterday is also that poor. A ballet-hardware where luxury is wasted and turned into cheap goods due to a clamorous lack of artistic level. The Beautiful Otero it is more of a magazine, sometimes disjointed, ideas loose and isolated from an imaginary without cohesion in the theatrical. The plot chosen by Olmo wastes many juicy stories that did give theatrical game and were certainly more original, such as Otero’s frustrated romance with Eugene Sandow, who, faithful to her boyfriend, the composer and piano soloist Martinus Sieveking, did not want to fall in bed with the Galician and came out of the mess by legs.
The dance level of the national company is now very good; the staff, very renewed, strives and strives to defend that, but does not go beyond where they are allowed to do. The dancers are precise, with plenty of attack and technique, but they do not have occasions of true brilliance. Maestro Manuel Busto leads the orchestra with honest effort, trying to blend an eclectic score with too disparate pieces with evident echoes of García Abril and José Nieto. Patricia Guerrero as Carolina Otero also makes a commendable effort. She is a good dancer and a dedicated artist, although the conception of the character in this novel dramaturgy does not allow her to emerge with all her demonstrated talent.
It was said last night in the corridors of the Teatro de La Zarzuela that The Beautiful Otero It was one of the most expensive ballets in the history of the BNE after Don Juan (1989) and The heart of greenstone (2008). Will we ever know its real cost?