Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
|Wilhelmenia Fernandez, Damon Evans|
Genres: Soundtracks, Classical
Worth a try, especially if you are looking for a modern-soun
Discophage | France | 08/01/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This disc originates in a London 1991 production of Bizet's and Oscar Hammerstein's Carmen Jones. It is not exactly the show as Hammerstein conceived it, mainly because it does not use Bizet's original orchestration, but a re-orchestration for a smaller and jazzier ensemble (saxophones much in evidence!) by Robert Russell Bennett. The overture also entirely re-written, using, as Bizet's, the themes from the opera but arranged in an original order (fate theme, habanera theme, smuggler's march from Act III, Toreador song, Bullfight theme from Act IV).
The voices of the Carmens are also somewhat more operatic than those of the Preminger film (see my review of Carmen Jones [IMPORT]). The two principal roles, Joe and Carmen, were shared between two casts, Wilhelmenia Fernandez/Damon Evans and Sharon Benson/Michael Austin and they also share parts on the disc. Fernandez (who sings the two big arias of Act I and final duet of act IV) has a warm and sensuous soprano voice that would not be out of place for an opera Carmen. It is very much in character but not nearly as saucy as Marilynn Horne's in the Preminger film. Her counterpart Sharon Benson (who is here allotted the ensembles and Card/Fate song in Act II and III) has a little less bloom but with no loss of sensuousness, and a little more impertinence. But quite honestly, if I didn't know, I would not have recognized that she was another singer, so similar are the voices. Michael Austin, Benson's Joe, acquits himself acceptably of the Flower Song but the voice doesn't have much bloom and heft, and the same can be said of Fernandez' partner Damon Evans.
Cindy Lou (Karen Parks) is commendably child-like and sweet in the first number ("Can't let you go") and manages pretty well in her big Act III aria ("My Joe", track 14), but she is rather painful to hear in her recitative and duet with Joe ("You talk jus' like my maw", track 5), and Damon Evans, her partner there, doesn't make a very strong impression either.
Gregg Baker as heavyweight Champion Husky Miller is excellent, as good as Preminger's Marvin Hayes, and Carolyn Sebron (Frankie) is fine too and suitably "Gospel alto" in her Act II "drum" aria, though she doesn't have the unique character of Preminger's un-operatic Pearl Bailey. The rest of the supporting cast is fine, although Danny John Jules (Dink) and Clive Rowe (Rum) aren't timbrally contrasted enough in the "Whizzin' Away Along de Track" Act II Quintet.
In sum, despite some limitations, this is worth a try, especially if you are looking for a modern-sounding, complete Carmen Jones.