Georges Bizet's famous opera is performed live at London's Earl's Court, with Jacques Delacote conducting the National Philharmonic Orchestra and the Ambrosian Opera Chorus. Don José is a guard who begins an affair with the tempestuous Carmen (Maria Ewing). He is imprisoned and loses his job, then flees with her to the mountains. When the relationship starts to break down José refuses to acknowledge it, and will not leave even when he gets news that his mother is dying. Carmen meanwhile has taken up with the bullfighter Escamillo.
Opera videos come essentially in two categories: films, such as the 1984 Carmen
, directed by Francesco Rosi and starring Julia Migenes and Placido Domingo, and opera-house productions filmed for television, such as this 1991 Carmen from London's Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. Choosing between them is not easy. Musically, both are excellent. Domingo has more name recognition than Luis Lima, but Lima is vocally and visually a precise embodiment of Don José, the soldier seduced and betrayed by Carmen and finally driven to murder her. Maria Ewing's Carmen is a vivid, natural, and subtly nuanced portrayal. Leontina Vaduva is exactly right as the innocent country girl Micaela, and Gino Quilico swaggers convincingly through the role of the bullfighter Escamillo. Covent Garden's staging is a subtle triumph, and the musicianship under Mehta's direction is impeccable as ever. . --Joe McLellan, Amazon.com
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