|2. Scène et Choeur: Sur la place|
|3. Choeur: Avec la garde montante|
|4. Récit: C'est bien là, n'est-ce pas|
|5. Choeur: La cloche a sonné...Dans l'air, nous suivons des yeux la fumée|
|6. Récit & Habanera: Quand je vous aimerai?...L'amour est un oiseau rebelle|
See all 14 tracks on this disc
|2. Chanson bohème: Les tringles des sistres tintalent|
|3. Récit: Messieurs, Pastia me dit|
|4. Choeur: Vivat! vivat le Toréro!|
|5. Couplets: Votre toast, je peux vous le rendre ... Toréador|
|6. Récit: La belle, un mot|
See all 14 tracks on this disc
|2. Sextuor & Choeur: Ecoute, écoute, compagnon, écoute|
|3. Récit: Reposons-nous une heure ici, mes camarades|
|4. Trio: Mêlons! Coupons!|
|5. Récit: Eh bien?|
|6. Morceau d'Emsemble: Quant ua douanier, c'est notre affaire|
See all 15 tracks on this disc
Most of this set's virtues have been detailed in the excellent review by Jed Distler, a member of Amazon.Com's Editorial team. Although most critics and reviewers have agreed that no other recording of "Carmen" has been able to displace this one as first choice in the forty years since it was made, the casting of Victoria de los Angeles in the title role has sparked controversy. I certainly can't believe at times that I am listening to a gypsy who works in a cigarette factory and who is charged with stabbing one of her work mates. Opera lovers will be familiar with my difficulty. We all need to suspend beliefs of one sort or another.
"I love her to distraction," sings Escamillo, the toreador. This is an opera recording that you will love too.
Beecham's Carmen has enjoyed the status of a classic from the day it was first issued 45 years or so ago. In my own view it more than deserves this status, and it is gratifying to see this view apparently shared widely. I don't myself agonise unduly over the question whether Carmen is best performed and heard as opera comique or as grand opera, for the simple reason that I hear it as something else entirely, almost foreshadowing West Side Story in a number of ways. Any criticism of the cast can only be marginal. De los Angeles had one of the most beautiful voices of her era, and she is in her wonderful prime here. I suppose it might be possible to want the heroine to sound more of a minx and less refined, but I myself am completely relaxed about the matter. She has an authentic Spanish quality to my ears, the performance is full of soul and passion, and when it's in sound alone it's always better to err on the side of beauty and musicianship rather than of vividness and drama. Gedda's voice is one I have always admired hugely - not a Wagnerian tenor, but one particularly well suited not only to Verdi but also to Berlioz, as owners of his performance as Faust will gladly testify. He doesn't have or try to affect a particularly 'Spanish' sound, but Bizet himself was not Spanish either. Janine Micheau as Micaela seems to me to do particularly well with her star spot in act III, and indeed she and the rest of the cast seem admirable to me more or less without exception.
This is another Beecham classic, and it seems to me that we have every reason to be grateful that he was so tyrannical and exacting with both his orchestral players and the recording personnel. The quality of the recordings he obtained was almost without exception above the average for its time, sometimes outstandingly so, and a little modern touching-up is very welcome in addition. Effects of distance, perfectly good in the first place, are even better now, and the sound of the orchestra and chorus is caught very well, with some particularly clear French enunciation from the latter to enhance what seems to me very good French from the principals. Beecham's own special wizardry is here at its finest - tempi perfect, orchestral phrasing with the familiar grace and magic, tonal balance and quality exquisite. To them all I say with Escamillo and the librettists
'Votre toast, je peux vous le rendre'.
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