Search - Georges Bizet, Sir Thomas Beecham, Victoria De Los Angeles :: Bizet: Carmen / de Los Angeles, Gedda, Micheau, E. Blanc; Beecham

Bizet: Carmen / de Los Angeles, Gedda, Micheau, E. Blanc; Beecham
Georges Bizet, Sir Thomas Beecham, Victoria De Los Angeles
Bizet: Carmen / de Los Angeles, Gedda, Micheau, E. Blanc; Beecham
Genre: Classical
  •  Track Listings (14) - Disc #1
  •  Track Listings (14) - Disc #2
  •  Track Listings (14) - Disc #3

As remastered for EMI's Great Recordings of the Century series, this classic 1959 Carmen sounds marginally better than its previous silver disc incarnation. Tape hiss is reduced, but without any compromise in residual o...  more »


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As remastered for EMI's Great Recordings of the Century series, this classic 1959 Carmen sounds marginally better than its previous silver disc incarnation. Tape hiss is reduced, but without any compromise in residual overtones. A/B comparisons also tipped the scales in favor of the present reissue for newfound clarity and character among the lower-pitched instruments and the choral forces. Like many conductors of his generation, Beecham viewed Carmen as grand opera, instead of opera comique, and opted for the once-ubiquitous, now-discredited Guirard recitatives. But the great conductor's ebullient pacing and light-handed orchestral balancing galvanizes his splendid cast to idiomatic heights. Victoria de los Angeles gets under the skin of the complex title role as few mezzos have--so much so that it is easy to take for granted her alluring timbre and meticulous musicianship. Nicolai Gedda's ardent and alive Don José is vocally fresher but a tad less insightful than his 1964 remake partnering Callas. Well sung but less individually portrayed are Ernst Blanc's Escamillo and Janine Michaeau's Micaela. Carmen sets of more recent vintage offer more authentic presentations of Bizet's text, to be sure. Yet Beecham's theatrical flair still burns brightly and will enrich Carmen lovers who have yet to experience this delightful, ageless recording. --Jed Distler

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CD Reviews

French unity of conception
Mr JB | Karlskrona Sweden | 08/16/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Let's just start with saying that this is a wonderful 'Carmen'. And that is probably because everyone who was involved with this recording turned in stunning performances. Let's begin with Victoria de los Angeles, whom I think makes The best over all performance of Carmen on disc - perhaps because she came from Spain, just as 'Carmen' is a spanish woman, but she also was a perfect interpreter of french opera with faultless accent and pronunciation, and 'Carmen' definately is french in style. De los Angeles is charming & humourous, seductive & fatal and not least, proud. She perfectly moves from being naive and childish in the beginning of the opera, to the more mature woman in the final acts - leaving no listener unmoved. Many of her individual parts are highly memorable, 'Pres le remparts...' and the card scene maybe the favorites. She might be a little genteel in her vocal style, but missing none of the caracter's many nuances. As her Don José we have Nicolai Gedda - an almost idiomatic french tenor with lots of wit and elegance. His 'flower song' is probably the best I've ever heard, thanks to his smoothness and perfect technique. He's also very moving in the duet with Michaela - on of the records real highlights. The only weakness with Gedda's performance is that he in the last act misses some of the dark intensity that the role calls for, making his despair a little childish, but that's a minor objection to a very good performance indeed. The other parts are very well sung as well. Michaeu as Michaela is utterly moving. When the 'parles moi de ma mere' ends I always wish it would last a little more, just to hear the perfect collaboration between Michaeu and Gedda. Ernest Blanc is good, no more no less, as Escamillo, bringing the so oftenly missing french style to his part, putting forth the caracter as a kind of stupid oneway-mind, very selfconfident indeed.Beecham then, how does he handle the score? Well, he certainly brings forth the elegance & the passion, the wit & the tragedy. There is never a boring moment from the orchestra, and the underlaying thrill of the score is always present. Many are the times when I at the end at a certain piece wishes it to last just a little longer, because it feels so right. I definately think that this is the best conducted Carmen I've ever heard.The sound also is good, mostly in the aspect of the balance between singers and orchestra, which is perfect. The sound itself is a little old but clear enough, a lot better than on the original LP-set, since it's been elaborately digitally remastered.Since I like Carmen (on record) better with recitatives, I don't mind the Guiraud's used here. Compared to other sets, I consider this is an over all winner. It's strongest competitors, and these are strong ones indeed, I think are the old Karajan set with Price and Corelli (RCA), and maybe the Abbado set with Berganza & Domingo (DG). What both of these sets misses is french style, the former being very italian in style, although bewitchingly sung. I think that Karajan's sounds very much like a performance of songnumbers more than a theatrical whole. The Abbado set has a unmoving but extremely beautiful sung Carmen in Berganza, and a very powerful Don José in Domingo, but unfortunately little else when looking at the other roles. As I said, these are very good sets, but this Beecham, now at this low price, is the most french (and spanish) perfomance, with a cast and conductor perfectly matching each other, they all go for the same goal, and they succeed! I can't recommend it enough."
Still classic after all these years
klavierspiel | TX, USA | 12/06/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Beecham's conducting and the performance of Victoria de los Angeles in the title role raise this performance of this much-performed and recorded opera to the level of one for the ages. Both of them realize, as many others do not, that Carmen was and is a French as well as Spanish heroine in Bizet's incarnation, and that Carmen the opera was originally conceived as an _opéra comique_, not a grand opera. Thus, there is a lightness and even humor to their reading that makes the more starkly dramatic and violent moments all the more telling in contrast. Even the use of the tired Guiraud recitatives cannot detract from the validity of their basic conception.Victoria de los Angeles has been described as "a Carmen in a thousand" and the description still holds true after more than four decades. She applies her naturally beautiful voice, untaxed by high notes, to create a bewitching, alluring heroine. She is well-supported by her male colleagues, Nicolai Gedda and Ernest Blanc; only Janine Micheau disappoints slightly, sounding too mature and vocally not altogether comfortable in her big third-act aria. All this is not to say that there are no other performances of Carmen worth hearing; but as a totality this one has stood the test of time and more."
Not enough SEX
shantinik | 03/11/2003
(3 out of 5 stars)

"The good stuff: Nicolai Gedda is in absolutely glorious voice. His high spinto-like tone presents an alternative to the often gruff Don Joses one hears elsewhere. The voice here is fresher than on his recording with Callas. The duet with Micaela is superb.The conducting and pacing by Beecham provides a sheen over the entire recording. But...There is the matter of De Los Angeles. Normally, one of my favorite singers. Fabulous with Bjoerling in La Boheme and, especially, Madama Butterfly. Exquisite recording of Canteloube's Songs of the Auvergne. But the problem here is that she has no allure. Her slides in the Habenera are forced. Her attempts at sarcasm in singing fall flat. There is just nothing "sexy" about her.There are two fine alternatives to this recording. The best all-around is Grace Bumbry, in the inexpensive Black Dog series. Now there is some "sexy" singing! And a big, buff Jon Vickers turned into a little lap dog by it! Mirella Freni is fine (if rather vanilla) Micaela. And their French is excellent.If poor French doesn't bother you, Leontyne Price as Carmen is a revelation! Big chesty low tones, with a terrific "come on" appeal. Corelli is in fine voice. Best of all, Robert Merrill remains the best Escamillo ever recorded. Von Karajan takes a rather Wagnerian approach to the score, and it works very well."