Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
|Georges Bizet, Michel Plasson, Orchestre du Capitole de Toulouse|
Bizet - Carmen / Gheorghiu · Alagna · Capitole de Toulouse · Plasson
The subject of whether we need another recording of this just-about-the world's-most-popular opera, which already boasts a half-dozen very fine ones available, is beside the point. Fans of opera's most volatile and fascina... more »
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The subject of whether we need another recording of this just-about-the world's-most-popular opera, which already boasts a half-dozen very fine ones available, is beside the point. Fans of opera's most volatile and fascinating couple, Angela Gheorghiu and Roberto Alagna, will both want and need this set. It's handsomely conducted by Frenchman Michel Plasson; most of the supporting cast, chorus, and orchestra are French, and this gives the work the true Gallic flavor many other performances are missing. Non-Frenchman Thomas Hampson offers an Escamillo who is less bluster than usual, but with plenty of swagger and lightish tone, and non-Frenchwoman Inva Mula's Micaela is lovely, particularly in the first act. Alagna is at his best, singing with almost no strain, impeccable diction (despite his name, he was raised in France), great sensitivity to the text, and a real sense of characterization. The set's problem is Gheorghiu. Despite her fine artistry, intelligence, and beautiful, unique sound, it is not a Carmen sound: it isn't rich, or deep, or sensual enough. In other words, this is a very fine performance of Carmen, but it's missing a real Carmen. Leontyne Price will convince you; and in entirely different ways, so will Agnes Baltsa (on RCA), and, of course, Maria Callas. But the great singing, playing, and conducting on this new set may be enough. And there's an alternate, earlier version of the Habanera included. --Robert Levine
L E WILLIS | Salt Lake City, ut United States | 12/26/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I'm not a great fan of Carmen, but I enjoy it if it is very good. As an opera singer, I am constantly turned off by the usual "bust-a-gut" vocal technique that makes me feel as if the signers and orchestra just completed the "Ring". I actually hate listening to the "in your face" low notes the mezzo obviously enjoys flaunting. However, I really enjoyed the freshness of this recording. Gheorghiu didn't try to sound like a mezzo. She's a soprano with very clear ideas about her interpretation. She portrays Carmen as a three demensional, passionate woman. I ejoyed reading her thoughts on this role in the booklet. Her voice is naturally dark when needed to be, but then she adds some fun light tones as well as she displays her versatile sing/acting. As a bass, I am not very excited about tenors, however, Alagna's production was tender, sensive and extremely listenable. He's not your typical dark, chesty, tenor who drags his chest voice too high while "barking" through his performance. Alagna's vocal line is beautiful, artistic, and well produced. I will certainly persue more of his work to see if it is the same. The orchestra and chorus are conducted better than I have ever heard Carmen performed before -light and "dance-like". The chorus is artistic with a delightful French quality. The supporting roles are sung extremely well and artistically. The production banishes the "cookie-cutter" characters of Carmen and replaces them with real people with real emotions. I have heard almost every Carmen recorded and have enjoyed all of the various interpretations. Regarding this production, enjoy it for what it is - a delightful, refreshing, artisically produced ensemble."
The best of the "recit" Carmens
madamemusico | Cincinnati, Ohio USA | 07/17/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Carmen is not only one of the greatest operas, it is also one of my favorites, having seen my first performance of it in 1967 with the excellent and underrated Nedda Casei in the title role. Since then I have seen several more performances, both in person and on video, and have heard every complete recording.My favorite is still the 1970 opera-comique version conducted by de Burgos. In addition to de Burgos' scintillating performance, this set also features the outstanding Don Jose of Jon Vickers, Micaela of Mirella Freni, and an excellent Escamillo sung by Kostas Paskalis. The one problem is Grace Bumbry's Carmen: beautifully sung, musically accurate, but more coy and kittenish, less assured than I like my Carmens. (She almost sounds like she's joking in the Card Scene, which isn't good.) Still, if I had to pick only one Carmen, this would be it.The present set does have a few drawbacks. Gheorghiu, however, is not one of them. Though we are used to hearing mezzo Carmens, there were once excellent soprano Carmens: the original, Celestine Galli-Marie; the French soprano Emma Calve; Americans Geraldine Farrar and Leontyne Price; and not all of them had smoky lower registers to boom out the notes. Gheorghiu sings very well, and presents us with a Carmen more resigned to her fate than angry or vituperative, an interesting interpretation.Alagna's Don Jose is for the most part superbly sung and acted. Like Vickers, he presents us with a Jose descending into madness and fixation. No one else on a recording with the Giraud recits has ever done this. My only complaint was that he should have taken the high B-flat in the "flower song" softly as written...he is certainly capable of it!Mula's Micaela was a pleasant surprise after reading the Opera News critic lambasting her. She has a pronounced French-style "flutter" in the voice, a bit odd to Anglo-Saxon ears but very acceptable in the French style, and otherwise her voice is pretty, beautifully controlled and expressive, giving an "inward" interpretation of Micaela that I found different and refreshing.Hampson sings Escamillo stylishly; this is a Toreador with class, yet one who we feel has a tough core. My one complaint was that he really doesn't have the low notes for the Toreador song; he barely touches them with the help of a mic.Plasson, as usual,conducts briskly yet sometimes dispassionately. His Act 4 introduction and chorus of people outside the bull ring sounds studied and a bit uninvolved, but otherwise he does an excellent job. Perhaps having singers who are also actors spurred him on to some of his best work. My only complaint was that the quintet is not as brisk or pointed as in the de Burgos recording.Concerning the sung recitatives, I have always liked them and am not as opposed to them as some people are. They are not only musical but "fit" well into the opera, unlike, say, the final scene of "Turandot" which is not and does not. Of the previous recordings that include the Giraud recits, pride of place goes to the old Beecham recording with de los Angeles and Gedda, though neither one acted their roles. This one is superior by a wide margin.My favorite Carmens remain Leontyne Price and Julia Migenes-Johnson, but the rest of the casts on their respective recordings do not live up to their high standard. As an overall "Carmen," then, this new recording tops the list of all digital releases and is second only to the de Burgos. As for the alternate "Habanera" - it's a cute piece but not one I plan to listen to very often. EMI should have included it as an appendix to Act One instead of sticking it in just after the final, familiar, better aria. Other than that, I say get it!"
A Modern Callas-Like Carmen At Last
Rudy Avila | Lennox, Ca United States | 10/01/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This EMI recording features the highly successful dramatic soprano Angela Gheorghiu as Bizet's fiery, fatal Carmen, her husband tenor Roberto Alagna is Don Jose, lyric soprano Inva Mulla Tchako as Micaela and Thomas Hampson as Escamillo the bullfighter. This studio recording is not the soundtrack to any of the films that Angela Gheorghiu and Roberto Alagna have made together (though I would love to see a film version of Carmen with these two in addition to their Romeo et Juliette and Tosca). Their tenor-soprano duo is of course the reason to purchase this recording. If you are devoted fans of opera's sexiest couple, this recording is definately for you. They have chemistry, virtuosic performance skills and beautiful voices and mastership of French song. Roberto Alagna was raised in France and has sung a vast number of French operas. He taught the East European Angela Gheorghiu French. This opera definately has a Gaelic touch to it. The electricity and sparks between these two sizzle on your stereo. Just hear the Seguidilla Scene, the whole scene which features the Flower Song sung by Don Jose and Carmen's following "No tu no me aime plus" and of course the fatal finale at the end of the bullfight "C'est Toi ? C'est Moi ?" all the way to "Eh Bien Damnee!" as Don Jose plunges a knife in Carmen's chest, killing her to end his crazed jealousy. Conductor Michel Plasson does not conduct the score as if it were verisimo Italian opera, though at times the opera has that feel to it. It is after all a brutally realistic tale full of violent passions, obscessions, sex, criminal activity, murder and basic instinct all elements straight out of an Emile Zola novel (though it was actually Prosper Merimee's grim novella). But Plasson tones it down so that the French lyricism is dominant, while still remaining a dramatic work of theater. The score is bombastic, but elegant as well.
Alagna is masteful as Don Jose, his voice trained well through years of studying both Pavarotti and Domingo, his predecessors. He has Pavoratti's lyricism and Domingo's dark dramatic depth. He also has sexy good looks. His Don Jose is among one of the best in recent times. Thomas Hampson is an ok Escamillo, with macho bravura but with no passion or attempt at passion like the baritones Sherill Milnes or Robert Merrill before him.
Angela Gheorghiu is not everyone's preferred choice for Carmen. Carmen calls for a dark, sexy mezzo soprano voice and only few Carmens have actually achieved success and made it their signature roles. Mezzo sopranos in the past that owned the role of Carmen included Rise Stevens, Giuletta Simionato, Regina Resnik, Shirley Verrett, Grace Bumbry, Agnes Baltsa and Tatiana Troyanos. Out of all these singers only Grace Bumbry does it for me, though Verrett and Troyanos also make fine Carmens. Gheorghiu would not be the first soprano to take on this role. Maria Callas' last recorded full-length opera was Carmen under EMI with Nicolai Gedda in the late 60's. Callas' soprano made Carmen seem sexy but a tad more melodramatic, and in Angela Gheorghiu we have a similar performance. She is a soprano and her voice is still in the soprano range and thus makes Carmen les the sexy femme fatale and more the dramatic diva that lures her lover to madness and murder. It is very surprising how similar Callas' Carmen and Gheorghiu's are. Gheorghiu must have studied Callas' interpretation quite a lot. It still works, as Angela Gheorghiu has a more mellifluous and even voice than Callas and is so in to the character we forget she's not a mezzo. Her voice is perfectly adaptable to the character. Oh, and I forgot to mention, Leontyne Price, another dramatic high soprano, took on the role of Carmen, as well as Jessye Norman. Carmen is such a juicy, attractive role. Thank God Angela Gheorghiu looks sexy enough to be Carmen. This is a brilliant modern Carmen and fans of Gheorghiu and Alagna should own this. Also, Inva Mulla Tchako (who sang the alien Lucia in Fifth Element) has a beautiful, silky soprano voice and does justice to the part of Micaela."