Larmore is a treasure
D. R. Schryer | 11/14/1998
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Upon first encountering this recording, I wasn't sure what to expect. I love Jennifer Larmore in the Bel Canto and Baroque repertory, but I was a little wary of her Carmen. Suffice it to say, she's a gem at whatever she does. She easily has more versatility than the more famous (why?) Ms. Bartoli. This recording has gotten some critical drubbing, but I find it thoroughly enjoyable, musically and dramatically, and the sound quality is exceptional. It is good to hear Thomas Moser's beautifully sung Jose, and Angela Gheorgiu is now one of my favorite Micaelas. Sinopoli's conducting, while not for traditionalists, is invigorating and intense."
Jennifer Larmore's Carmen, Samuel Ramey's Escamillo: Wow!!
Rudy Avila | Lennox, Ca United States | 09/27/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is perhaps the most ornately and beautifully-sung, uber-French/Gaelic version of Carmen as you will ever find. Lost is the Italian-influenced verisimo sex and blood drama that is often associated with this opera. The honey-voiced and sexy mezzo soprano Jennifer Larmore sings Carmen, tenor Thomas Moser is Don Jose, soprano Angela Gheorghiu steps down her diva pedestal to sing the more minor role of Micaela and baritone superstar Samuel Ramey sings Escamillo. With a cast like this one, and with Maestro Giuseppe Sinopoli conducting you can't go wrong. This should be among one of your top Carmens, even if you already own a dozen other Carmens.
Jennifer Larmore is primarily a French mezzo soprano, singing ina kind of technique that is very rare and uncommon. While her voice is suited for recital and concerts, her dramatic operatic roles are just as impressive. Being a mezzo-soprano, she was bound to add Carmen to her resume. Her Carmen is one of pure sex appeal, with a voice that is as dramatic as it is sensual. She may not step up the drama as some "high" mezzos have done before (examples include Grace Bumbry, Shirley Verrett, Julia Migenes Johnson) and she certainly lacks what soprano-Carmens like Maria Callas brings to the role, but she is absolutely amazing, holding her own as well as any more famous Carmen. Listen to her version of the Habanera- it is musically the most French sounding instead of Moorish/Spanish sounding. The Seguidilla, Gypsy Song and the "Song and Dance for Don Jose" (Je Vrais Danser En Votre Honoeur) are all examples of French concert songs and Larmore is able to bring out true beauty out of them, without forgotting plot and sounding compelling. Her reading of the Death Card Scene is dark and rich, like dark chocolate. Her Final Confrotation with Don Jose may not be explosive but it is fatal and appropriately dramatic. Jennifer Larmore is the most well-intepreted Carmen in most recent times.
Larmore is supported by Thomas Moser as Don Jose. I really don't have much to say about Thomas Moser. He is doing a decent job, but he is only serviceable and lacks some of the more colorful and dramatic portrayals sung by such tenors as Don Jose and Jon Vickers who fit the role like a glove. Moser does not sound enough like Don Jose for me, though in his French diction and French persona of the character he is unsurpassed. Soprano Angela Gheorghiu, who hails from Eastern Europe, is a true diva and one of today's most popular dramatic sopranos. In each performance whether it is Tosca, Mimi, Manon, Werther or Nedda, she resembles Maria Callas with better voice! As Micaela, she is fully lyrical, gorgeous and splendid and her mastership of French opera is exceptional. She truly benefited from her marriage to tenor Roberto Alagna who is actually a French citizen. She does not overdo Micaela as Mirella Freni does, and does not try to outshine Larmore. This is after all "Carmen" and not "Micaela" and its refreshing and interesting to hear Angela Gheorghiu not act the diva for once. However, with a voice like hers, one wonders why Don Jose would ignore her and go for Carmen!
Samuel Ramey's Escamillo is the sexiest and most gorgeously, soothing voice I've ever heard. Escamillo has been sung in very serviceable ways, lacking some character by such tenors as Kostas Paskalis and Sherill Milnes. But Ramey makes Escamillo appropriately macho and strong, while alsou ravishing US with his voice alone. His fight with Don Jose is as impressive as his duet with Carmen. Fans of Ramey will not want to be without this particular recording, since Ramey is not famous for Escamillo at all and instead gained popularity for the number of sinister villain roles of his operatic career - Scarpia, Mephistopheles, the villains in Tales of Hoffman among others. Conductor Giuseppe Sinopoli tends to conduct the tempi in any score in slower motion and in broad ways, but in this way we are able to hear the subtleties in the fatalistic drama that is inherent in Bizet's music as well as the more purely melodic French moments like the Preludes and exotic, explosive Fate Theme heard at the end of the Overture and at the end of the opera itself."