Solti is not always given his due as an opera conductor, but I can think of several recordings by the Hungarian maestro which are the best, or among the best, available: his Eugene Onegin, Elektra, Don Carlos and legendary Ring cycle spring to mind.
High in that lustrous list is this magnificent 3-disc Carmen, played with warm, full-blooded brio by the LPO under their fiery conductor. As an all-round recording of this wonderful opera, this is hard to beat. Apart from predictably on-the-button singing from Domingo, Te Kanawa and van Dam (spot the Spaniard!) as well as some of what is usually dubbed luxury casting from the likes of Norma Burrowes and Thomas Allen in smaller roles, the jewel in its crown is the Carmen of the late Tatiana Troyanos, the Greco-American mezzo with one of the richest, most sensuous voices of her time. (Tragically, she died of cancer in that operatic annus horribilis of 1993, which also saw the absurdly early deaths of Lucia Popp and Arleen Auger, all in their early 50s.)
Apparently she never felt comfortable with the physical, overtly sensual demands of the role on stage, but one wouldn`t guess that from her fruity, sensuous singing on this set. Perhaps she felt freer to give it her all in the studio for that very reason. That is what she does. Unless you want a splashier, more obviously raunchy Carmen for your money, do try this Solti/Troyanos recording. There is passion and sensuality aplenty here - including a typically glorious Don Jose from the always value-for-money Placido - all of it anchored by the earthy, sumptuous, dignified, intelligent singing of Tatiana Troyanos.
A connoisseur`s Carmen?