- Audio CD (May 29 2007)
- SPARS Code: DDD
- Number of Discs: 3
- Format: Import
- Label: EMI Classics
- ASIN: B000083GOD
- Other Editions: Audio CD
- Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
|1. Carmen, opera: No. 1. Prélude|
|2. Carmen, opera: Act 1. No. 2. Scène et Choeur. Sur la place chacun passe|
|3. Carmen, opera: Act 1. No. 2. Scène et Choeur. Regardez donc cette petite|
|4. Carmen, opera: Act 1. No. 2a. Scène et Pantomime. Attention! Chut! Attention! Taisons-nous!|
|5. Carmen, opera: Act 1. No. 3. Choeur des gamins. Avec la garde montante|
|6. Carmen, opera: Act 1. No. 3. RÃ©citatif. Une jeune fille charmante...Et la garde descendante|
See all 21 tracks on this disc
|1. Carmen, opera: Entracte|
|2. Carmen, opera: Act 2. No. 12. Chanson bohème. Les tringles des sistres tintaient|
|3. Carmen, opera: Act 2. No. 12 bis. Récitatif. Messieurs, Pastia me dit...|
|4. Carmen, opera: Act 2. No. 13. Choeur. Vivat! vivat le Toréro!|
|5. Carmen, opera: Act 2. No. 14. Couplets. Votre toast, je peux vous le rendre...Toréador, en garde!|
|6. Carmen, opera: Act 2. No. 14 bis. Récitatif. La belle, un mot|
See all 19 tracks on this disc
|1. Carmen, opera: Entracte|
|2. Carmen, opera: Act 3. No. 19. Sextuor et Choeur. Écoute, écoute, compagnon, écoute|
|3. Carmen, opera: Act 3. No. 19. Sextuor et Choeur. Notre métier est bon|
|4. Carmen, opera: Act 3. No. 19 bis. Récitatif. Reposons-nous une heure ici, mes camarades|
|5. Carmen, opera: Act 3. No. 19 bis. Récitatif. Que regardes-tu donc?|
|6. Carmen, opera: Act 3. No. 20. Trio. Mêlons! Coupons!|
See all 26 tracks on this disc
2 passages on this recording deserve special mention. Bizet's long-lost 1st version of Carmen's entrance number has been discovered & is here recorded for the 1st time ever. [Finally replaced by the familiar Habanera, that indispensible piece is also present.] And here we have the second-ever recording of the comical pantomime in act 1 [between Micaëla's exit & the children's march], a charming solo for the corporal Moralès. [It was previously recorded on the 1970 EMI under Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos.]
Reading the singers' names, it becomes obvious that EMI has taken great care in assembling a very high-profile new CARMEN. But the best-known names aren't always best-suited to their roles. Even in the supporting roles, one finds singers who perform leading roles all over Francophone Europe: Moralès is none other than Ludovic Tézier [Henri in Virgin's LUCIE DE LAMMERMOOR]. In the restored solo he's drily witty, but in the piece's earlier recording Claude Méloni's was irresistibly sunnier of tone & delivery.
Another starry presence who doesn't quite fit well in their role is high coloratura Elisabeth Vidal [Ginevra in Opera Rara's GINEVRA DI SCOZIA] as Frasquita. She approaches the high lines with so much finesse that she fails to ride above the ensembles. As Vidal's phenomenal top register merely begins where the role's highest notes leave off, her other recordings show her off better [GINEVRA & also her French aria/duo recital with husband André Cognet].
Even though Micaëla is a full lyric sing, a Puccinian sound or approach are neither necessary nor desirable. Lyric-coloratura Inva Mula has a surprisingly full-bodied tone, but doesn't illuminate this often-bland character. The charismatic bullfighter Escamillo offers performers much more to work with, yet Thomas Hampson doesn't take advantage of that opportunity. He doesn't err towards vulgarity like most, but he fatally lacks the wicked sense of humour & bravado which the authors intended. Vocally he lacks the bottom-to-top brilliance to make sense of the wide-ranging lines: an inert Toreador.
Regardless of whether or not this recording was meant as another showcase for the Alagnas, the idea of these 2 singers in these roles holds some appeal: Angela Gheorghiu has an unusually substantial lower-middle register for a soprano & Roberto Alagna has significant stage experience as Don José. But how does reality measure up to optimism?
Gheorghiu is obviously enjoying herself a great deal as Carmen, & makes much of the 1st version of the entrance number [very Offenbachian in style]. She doesn't sound as fresh as she can at her best. Written for a true mezzo-soprano, Carmen's low writing doesn't offer Gheorghiu's voice the chance to really bloom into its best register. More brutally, hard usage over the years has chipped away at this once luscious instrument. Disappointingly, considering her renown in French repertoire, her diction lacks specificity: she's untidy about vowel sounds [singing 'en', as in EN vain, in place of 'ien', RIEN]. These recurrent details add up & detract from her interpretation.
Madame still sounds better than Monsieur, whose timbre is now quite raddled & worn. Alagna's dictation-perfect French can't save his steely-sounding José. Worse yet, he sings at an unrelieved mezzo forte, forgoing any hope of a steady, well-supported piano or pianissimo. In his '95 aria recital CD he crooned the end of the flower song all the way up to a high B-flat taken pianissimo, as written: musically bewitching although dubious technically. Here he follows tenor tradition & cries out that passage. This destroys the moment's mood [it's underscored only by ppp strings] & meaning ['Oh my Carmen, & I was only an object to you!']. Give me the crooning anyday.
Apart from the 2 restorations, we are left with the traditional version of the score [which means missing out the extended Escamillo/José duel, a passage Bizet himself never cut]. And even though this cast could have handled the spoken dialogues far better than most today, they are saddled with Guiraud's recitatives are performed. Reading the liner notes, all of EMI's PR can't make them better than they actually are.
The most damaging flaw in this starlit release is the quantity of musical mistakes! The trill at the end of the A-major section of the act 1 prelude [before the 'fate' music] is supposed to be E-F natural; here the orchestra plays E-F sharp. Gheorghiu blunders her 'J'irai chez mon ami Lillas Pastia' at the end of the 1st section of the Séguédille. The final Carmen/Escamillo 'L'amour!' exchange in the Toreador Song goes dreadfully sharp between both Gheorghiu & Hampson. And when Mula fails to ride the act 3 finale on her line 'Écoute-moi, je t'en prie', it is because she is a minor third too low [!]. With all today's technological advances, all these mistakes could have been corrected, & it remains a disgrace that they weren't. A latter-day classic CARMEN this recording ultimately is not.
I've been enjoying live-performance recordings lately that really draw you into the opera house and onto the stage. The image I had while listening to this performance was of soloists standing behind music stands turning the pages of their music.