Once, Twice, Three Times A Carmen

I'm going to be fair. There are many overused pieces of music in figure skating. From "Malaguena" to just about anything Sergei Rachmaninoff ever came up with, Georges Bizet's score "Carmen" certainly keeps varied company. There's an old drag queen saying that goes "it doesn't matter who did it first, it matters who did it best". It's usually said by the person who did it second or third, not necessarily the person who used the music best, but that's neither hurr nor there. I'm just full of the puns today. I digress.

SO the music is iconic and there's no denying that. It's been interpreted by such skating stars as Katarina Witt and Debi Thomas (who battled it out at the 1988 Olympics in "The Battle Of The Carmens" when both Olympic gold medal contenders selected the same music for their free skates), Angelika Krylova and Oleg Ovsiannikovv, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, Natalia Bestemianova and Andrei Bukin, Michelle Kwan, Irina Slutskaya, Evan Lysacek and too many others to even count. The Bizet score was even inspiration for an acclaimed TV production "Carmen On Ice" which starred Brian Boitano, Brian Orser and Katarina Witt and even earned an Emmy award.

But who did it best? Let's take a look at 6.0 of the best interpretations of "Carmen" on ice going:


In winning the 1988 Olympic Winter Games despite losing to Canada's Elizabeth Manley in both the short and long programs, Katarina certainly served up the theatre with this iconic free skate set to Bizet's score.


In the tradition of great Russian ice dancers, Krylova and Ovsiannikovv gave us drama and intensity in their 1997/1998 season free dance to "Carmen", which won them the silver medal at the 1998 Olympic Winter Games behind teammates Grishuk and Platov.


Reigning Olympic Medallists Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir debuted their free dance this season at Skate Canada to contrasting reviews. Though lacking the intensity of Witt and Krylova, Virtue and Moir show precision and passion galore in this free dance, which will be put head to head with Meryl Davis and Charlie White's "The Hunchback Of Notre Dame" free dance at the upcoming World Championships.


Another unforgettable and stirring rendition of "Carmen" was the winning free dance by Navka and Kostomarov at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy. Full of difficulty, attack and personality, this free dance was considered a true "Carmen" by many.


A beautifully crafted program, Silvia Fontana's 2002 Olympic free skate to "Carmen" was a lesson in musical interpretation and spirit. Definitely one of her best competitive programs as it really suited her style, I found.


Eight perfect 6.0's can't be wrong, right? If any team was known for serving high drama on the ice, it was these two. The 1988 Olympic Gold Medallists were criticized by many as over the top, but really came into their own as professionals and created some of the most original and creative ice dance programs out there. This free dance to "Carmen" is typical 80's Bestemianova and Bukin, and won them the 1985 European and World titles.

Definitely deserving of honorable mention is Susanna Rahkamo and Petri Kokko's interpretation of Carmen at the 1997 Challenge Of Champions professional competition. I've yet to find a YouTube link to this performance, but I can assure you it's worth dusting your skating tape collection off and looking for. Susanna's Carmen dies at the end at the hand of a red tube of lipstick. In typical Susanna and Petri fashion, it's pure theatre and avant garde realness.

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