CARMEN – Kelley Abbey Choreographs!

Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour: Carmen

Against the stunning backdrop of Sydney’s majestic Opera House and Harbour Bridge, Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour returns from 22 March – 12 April 2013 with a spectacular production of Carmen.
Audiences can expect sizzling moments of Spanish seduction when glamorous performers and creative visionaries bring Carmen to the glittering harbour stage. This once-in-a-lifetime production features a cast of Australian and international singers with a live orchestra, colourful costumes and flamenco dancing by Sydney’s top dancers to set the night ablaze.
The 18 exceptional dancers have been hand-picked by Choreographer Kelley Abbey for their talent, versatility and precision – many familiar names emerge together with new artists: Kate Wormald (Dance Captain), Stephen Tannos, Camilla Jakimovicz, Heath Keating, Morgan Choice, BJ Rorke, Joel Rasmussen, Kane Bonke, Sally Hare, Natasha Marconi, Stephen Perez, Catarina Santos, Sarah Seville, Shannon O’Shea, Chris Tsattalios, James Maxfield, Danielle Cook, Tom Anastopoulis.
Carmen is the third opera Gale Edwards has directed in two years, after La bohème and Salome. Edwards has brought this production of Carmen forward to mid 20th century Spain. The sizzling production highlights all the elements of Carmen’s wildly passionate story of an irresistibly tempestuous beauty, unrequited love, lust and tragedy. George Bizet’s score for Carmen is instantly recognisable, with its rousing overture, soaring arias and heart-stirring choruses. Set designer, Brian Thomson, has created a massive set to resemble a bull fighting ring which sits out over the water of Sydney Harbour and has a giant neon-lit outline of a bull, the classic emblem of Spain as its signature.

This production sees the first major inclusion of dancers in an Opera Australia Production. Kelley Abbey and Kate Wormald were on hand at to chat to us at Wednesday’s rehearsal at Olympic Park Sports Centre at Homebush …

Kelley Abbey

How have you involved the dancers in this amazing production of Carmen?

The biggest scene is the cafe scene which starts with an argumentative pas de deux between the fabulous Kate Wormald (So You Think You Can Dance) and Joel Rassmussen. Set on stage is a giant neon cut out of a bull so they kind of go head to head like a bull fight and then all the dancers and chorus come on stage and do quite a complex flamenco rhythm that fills the big gypsy cafe scene. This is Carmen’s big song; it’s a five-minute long number involving the chorus as well so it has quite a lot of layers to it.
The beginning of Act 4 we do another one of the dances featuring Kate. There are seven boys and a gi-normous skirt – everyone knows how much I love a skirt – I think this is actually the biggest skirt I’ve ever done – its about four metres in the round and the boys manipulate the skirt as she dances in the middle of it. We do a procession at the end before the big bull fight and Stephen Tannos plays the bull. They are the main dance numbers in the show.”

What was the casting process for your dancers?

“It actually wasn’t very difficult at all … I kind of knew who I wanted so I went ahead and booked them which hardly ever happens!  I really just hand-picked people that I thought would be right for this. I’ve worked with most of them before but there are a couple of new people … I have just been watching them and thought ‘I’d like to give that person an opportunity’.

Were there any particular struggles choreographically?

“It’s interesting for dancers because traditionally Carmen has involved the old-style flamenco. I’m doing a little bit of that but making it much more fleshed out – more muscular, athletic and sexier. We are doing 1920’s-30’s traditional gypsy footwork and rhythms so its a style that the dancers have never done before … that’s been a challenge for them. I had to say to them ‘you have to lose all of your pop sensibility’. So everyone who has been ‘X-Factoring’ they’ve had to let go of that way of dancing and find a whole new way so that’s been a real challenge for them and also a delicious challenge at the same time!”

Kate Wormald

What has your experience been working on Carmen?

Carmen has thus far been an absolutely massive experience. We are yet to go to the stage which we do next week but we’ve been rehearsing at Homebush because no-one else can fit us! The mark up of the set is absolutely huge and its a really different experience for me. I haven’t performed in an opera before so, that alone, having the chorus singing around you is really spectacular. The first time I heard them I got goose bumps!”

I believe you have a massive skirt dance – how tough is that?

“We keep laughing and joking about the fact that I could fly away one night because we are obviously outside and the elements will be against us. But it’s fantastic, there are seven boys and I think they work the skirt while I get my flamenco on! It’s a really cool number and I think that because of the enormity of the set and the stage and it being on the harbour, something of that size needed to be in the middle! It should look really fantastic!

I am guessing Kelley come up with some amazing choreography?

We all know when Kelley Abbey’s involved that it’s going to be grand and she certainly hasn’t disappointed here. There’s a couple of big dance ensemble numbers that we do and one of them is the gypsy cafe – there’s 18 dancers and quite a large chorus – there are a lot of people on stage and it’s going to look really spectacular.”

Carmen commences on March 22nd – get your tickets now!


Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour: Carmen

22 March – 12 April 2013

Tickets: Premium from $295, A Reserve from $195, B Reserve from $140, C Reserve from $79

Details: 9318 8300 or

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