Well . . . recordings of "Carmen" really divide the reviewers -- lots of very strong feelings on both sides. It's not an opera I've spent a lot of time with, even though I've always liked the music (in the suites), but now I've heard two complete recordings. I gave the 1962 Karajan four stars, mainly on the basis of hearing Price and Corelli at their peaks, but after hearing Abbado, I realize how content Karajan was to give us a richly upholstered showcase for great voices (yes, Merrill and Freni are in it too and sound great). Everything about Abbado's 1977 recording is much more dramatically pointed, and the orchestral sound has more immediacy than Karajan's, with the voices very well placed in relation to it. A lot of people complain of not hearing a "really" French "Carmen" -- but do we really know what that would sound like? Abbado's sounds fine to me. Domingo is a fine Jose, his French better than Corelli's and better than his own in the Decca "Hoffmann." He's fully dramatically alive (the singers do their own spoken parts), and he shapes the Flower Song beautifully, and his tense exchange with Carmen right after is marvelous. Teresa Berganza sings beautifully as Carmen. She has sex appeal but she presents too a character who enjoys manipulating men -- you can hear it in her dynamics and phrasing. It's valid conception of the role. Cotrubas's voice is less lovely than Freni's as Micaela , but her French is better and her dramatic engagement more palpable. Milnes is a fine Escamillo, but Merrill's voice is richer and his dramatic instincts fine too. Abbado's contribution seems very distinguished to me. He has a combination of elegance and energy that Karajan doesn't match, and the sheer beauty of the orchestral playing -- e. g. in the entr'acte before Act 2 -- is a joy in itself. I've heard good things about the Solti recording (with Domingo too), but this one is just fine.