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Carmen: Wiener Philharmoniker (Karajan) [DVD] [2005]

Grace Bumbry , Jon Vickers , Herbert von Karajan    Exempt   DVD
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
Price: £14.59 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Product details

  • Actors: Grace Bumbry, Jon Vickers, Mirella Freni, Justino Díaz, Julia Hamari
  • Directors: Herbert von Karajan
  • Writers: Henri Meilhac, Ludovic Halévy, Prosper Mérimée
  • Producers: Herbert von Karajan, Fritz Buttenstedt
  • Format: Classical, Closed-captioned, Colour, Dolby, DVD-Video, PAL
  • Language: French, English, German, Spanish, Mandarin Chinese
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish, German, French
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 4:3 - 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: Exempt
  • Studio: Deutsche Grammophon
  • DVD Release Date: 9 May 2005
  • Run Time: 163 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0007P0LN4
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 90,332 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)


cast: compositoregeorges bizet direttoreherbert von karajan interpretegrace bumbry jon vickers justino diaz

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
This is a 1967 film of Karajan's Salzburg Festival production of Carmen. The picture and sound quality are truly excellent for a film of this age. The colours are vibrant and the sound is wonderful. Orchestra and voices are both recorded very well. There are two soundtracks, LPCM stereo or DTS 5.1 surround sound.

This is an absolutely classic performance of the traditional score using the sung recitatives added by Ernest Guiraud rather than the original spoken French dialogue which is generally preferred nowadays. Whilst the musicality of the recitatives is not as inspired as Bizet's own score, in the hands of such great exponents as Karajan and his assembled cast, they work well and it is interesting to hear a performance uninterrupted by spoken dialogue. The playing of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Herbert von Karajan is just outstanding. The sheer beauty of their playing is an absolute joy and Karajan directs a great performance of the score which really enhances the drama and the singing and brings out the power and quality of Bizet's great score. He inserts some extra orchestral items by Bizet, largely from L'Arlesienne, at the start of Act 2 to permit an extra sequence of Spanish dances.

As for the cast, it could hardly be bettered, and such a uniformly strong quartet of principals is not equalled on most of the modern DVDs. Grace Bumbry is stupendous as Carmen. She looks absolutely stunning and her pure vocal line and power are just marvellous. She is partnered by Jon Vickers as Don Jose. He may look too old for the part and his French pronunciation is not great, but vocally and dramatically he is again superb, not quite the equal of Jose Carreras in the DVD from the Metropolitan Opera, but almost as good.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Von Karajan's magic brought to Carmen. 5 Jan 2012
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
This 1967 film of the 1966 Salzburg production as conducted and directed by Herbert Von Karajan brings together the finest Carmen cast available at the time. Some slight changes were made from the 1966 production which most critics felt improved the performance. Firstly if you are looking to buy a Carmen DVD from the many available do not be put off by the fact this was made in 1967. The sound and video quality are both excellent. The video is a little soft in parts but this actually enhances the overall experience. The colour of the costumes and the background scenery reproduce extremely well with a vibrancy not seen in many productions since. The version of the score used by Von Karajan is the traditional one with the accompanied recitatives, less popular today but I think preferable for this film version. He has also added a dance sequence at the beginning of act 2 ending with a Farandole from Bizet's L'Arlesienne performed by The Mariemma & Ballet de Espana.

Normally in a review of Carmen I would start with Carmen or Don Jose however in this particular version the absolute star of the production is Mirella Freni as Micaela. In the many DVD and blu-ray versions I have of Carmen I have not heard anyone come close to Ms Freni's performance of this role. To me this DVD is worth purchasing just for her performance. Not only does she sing with such sweetness, youthfulness and clarity she also looks like you would expect Micaela to look. She is very pretty and totally convincing. She was 32 when this film mas made and had already made this role her own having début in 1955 with it.

Jon Vickers was at his vocal prime in 1967 and was Von Karajan's best choice for Don Jose. He was best known as a Wagnerian heldentenor but was also capable of singing lighter roles.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars De Luxe Carmen 18 Mar 2012
This has always been a controversial performance since the day it was first performed. Most controversial of all was Karajan's introduction of Mariemma and the Ballet of Spain into Act Two and dancing Carmen's "seguidilla" for her ! I still vividly remember the Daily Telegraph's music critic almost dying of apoplexy and rage ! And he was not the only one! There was fury, too, at just how far away from the original Merimée novel Karajan's "super de-luxe" wide-screen production had strayed. No gypsy taverns here, just a rather smart Puerto Banus nightclub !

Well, some people may still be enraged and there is no denying that all these points are true ! And Karajan does introduce a ballet scene (with flamenco, no less !)As well as great chunks of L'Arlesienne. But it is visually stunning and dramatically atmospheric and gives us the opportunity to hear some stunning playing by the Vienna Philharmonic in very unfamiliar territory, really amazing playing. They really seem to be enjoying themselves. Nor was it all that uncommon, especially in Paris, to introduce ballet scenes into an opera (even into Wagner!)Also, this trick of lightening the tension before the drama really begins is also quite well known- Shakespeare uses it all the time. Still, if you like your Carmen grim and gritty and earnest with no spurious colour, you should give this one a miss.

That would be a shame since it is one of the finest Carmens in existence and certainly the best played. Karajan's "usual" Carmen, Leontyne Price is replaced in the film by Grace Bumbry, presumably because Miss Bumbry is more photogenic and less portly ! It is fairly well known that Karajan and Bumbry did not get along too well and did not work together again but it does not show.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.2 out of 5 stars  19 reviews
60 of 60 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Karajan's Carmen finally on DVD... Excellent effort from Deutsche Grammophon 7 July 2005
By dooby - Published on
The 1967 film of Karajan's Salzburg production of Carmen is finally on DVD. This marked the first time Bizet's opera was recorded on film. For those who may be unfamiliar with it, this is not recorded at the Salzburg Festival, nor is it even a live recording. It is a filmed memento of the production which first premiered at the 1966 Salzburg Festival and was restaged for the 1967 festival with a slight change of cast. Karajan was notorious for avoiding live recordings. He wanted the kind of perfection in his recordings which could only be achieved in the studio. The music was recorded at the Sofiensaal in Vienna and the filming itself took place in Munich, Germany. It is a lip-synched performance but very well done. Production values are very high. The staging is superb, from the sumptuous sets, to the gorgeous costumes, to the huge supporting cast which even included riders on horseback.

There are several differences between the original festival production and the film version. Karajan managed to assemble some of the finest forces available for the festival. For the film itself he went even further, bringing in the venerable Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra and the Vienna State Opera Chorus and Children's Chorus to replace the original Salzburg Festival Orchestra and Chorus. He changed the line-up of singers several times until he was satisfied he had the right mix. He even imported the Ballet de España, preferring them for authenticity over the traditional Staatsoper ballet.

A still young Grace Bumbry is in full bloom here as the sultry, fiery Carmen. Jon Vickers does an excellent job spanning the emotional spectrum from shy young soldier to jealous lover to enraged murderer. Mirella Freni with her wonderfully expressive voice is simply enchanting as the kind, noble-hearted Micaëla. She outshines everyone else here and tends to steal every scene she is in. And of course you get to see long stretches of Karajan himself, in the Prelude and the three Entr'actes, eyes perpetually closed, seemingly in bliss as he conducts the Vienna Philharmonic in the darkened orchestra pit. The effect is to give the impression that we are watching a live performance. And that performance is without question a glorious triumph.

As a note of interest, Karajan performs the older version of Carmen using the sung recitatives written by Ernest Guiraud. He would later re-record Carmen for Deutsche Grammophon (with Baltsa, Carreras, Van Dam, Ricciarelli & the BPO) using the longer 1964 Oeser Critical Edition with its expanded music and Bizet's original spoken dialogue. Bumbry, Vickers and Freni would also go on to record the newer version with spoken dialogue under Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos. But this is the only occasion when the principal participants would come together and as an historical document, old or new, it is to be treasured. Another peculiarity of this production is Karajan's inclusion of music from Bizet's "L'Arlésienne", including the famous showstopping Farandole for the extended Spanish Dance sequence at Lillas Pastia's tavern. This was obviously meant as a showcase for the Ballet de España and they acquit themselves admirably.

This film was shot in 1.37:1 aspect ratio (fullscreen). The brilliant colors of the costumes and sets are caught in full technicolor splendor. Deutsche Grammophon has either gotten hold of a pristine print or has taken the trouble of restoring it for DVD. It looks superb. There is almost no dirt or nicks to speak of. The picture is crystal clear and sharp. The colors really leap out. A lovely transfer overall. Sound is in the original uncompressed PCM stereo along with a new DTS 5.1 remix. The sound is good, although a mite aggressive. I personally prefer the plain old stereo. There are 53 cuing tracks but unfortunately no direct access via the menu - you need to read the track contents from the booklet. The original French libretto, along with English and Spanish translations are available as optional subtitles. This is an altogether outstanding production of Carmen which more than holds its own against later cinematic versions.
21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Perfect Carmen 26 Jun 2005
A Kid's Review - Published on
Deutsche Grammophone, a record label and now a terrific Opera-on-DVD label, has outdone themselves recently. This Carmen on film, of a Salzburg Festival production, is just one of many currently released operas on DVD by the DG label - on the market now are Cavelleria Rusticana/I Pagliacci starring Placido Domingo, Tosca starring Domingo and Raina Kabainskava, the Domingo-Mirella Freni Madame Butterfly and the Otello starring Jon Vickers and Mirella Freni. This is hands down the most perfect Carmen. I would love to see a newer staged production similar to this one. Thanks to fine art direction/cinematography (and lovely Technicolor) this 1967 production is a dream come true and a fine document to the artists who poured their hearts into this opera- the magical and illustrious conductor Herbert Von Karajan (who throughout conducts the orchestra with his eyes closed and quite confidently and passionately)mezzo soprano Grace Bumbry in her youngest and earliest captured Carmen in a performace that is to this date unsurpassed, tenor Jon Vickers as a strong, passionate and obscessed Don Jose, Mirella Freni as a noble and lovely Micaela and baritone Justino Diaz as a handsome and magnetic Escamillo. The set design, though not elaborate or lavish as a Zefferelli production, is authentically and quintessentially Spanish and charming. Costumes are also top-notch- men in tailored shirts and pants, women looking like Gypsies and Bumbry has fine eye-pleasaing costumes which show off her figure and cleavage. The white gown in the Lilas Pastias scene is lovely as is the red gown she wears in the last act at the bullfight. The houses look Mexican in design, there's even a guitar hanging on a wall. Very beautiful.

Grace Bumbry gives it her all as Carmen. She performs the character with nuance, playfulness and ease- as if she's having fun in the role. "Habanera" and "Seguidilla" and the Gypsy Song and Dance sequence are all executed with great flair. Bumbry is Carmen, immersed in the character right to the skin. Her reading of the Death Card aria is expressive and grand. She has real chemistry with Jon Vickers. He is the most convincing Don Jose to me. He has a strong, robust voice and masculine appearance, and he goes from shy soldier to enamored admirer of Carmen to possessive and crazed with jealousy. When he stabs Carmen, it comes as no surprise, and Carmen knew it was coming too. This is a fine production and we will never again see the likes of it. It is impressive in every single way. Please go out and buy this and other Deutsche Grammophone operas on DVD. Thanks Deutsche Grammophone! Keep up the outstanding work!
24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dream cast 16 Mar 2006
By C. Boerger - Published on
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
Herbert von Karajan was certainly an ambitious devil. Not content with being a great conductor, he insisted on "dabbling" in film, making a series of opera movies. This Carmen is one of them, and it proves the conductor to be quite talented as a visual artist. Of course, it doesn't hurt to have a cast this good, which is as close to perfect as you are likely to get.

The film itself is lovely to look at. The costumes are beautiful, the sets spacious and realistic, and quite gritty(appropriate, considering the setting and earthy subject matter), and the use of camera angles is revealing of character, glorious during some of the crowd scenes, frequently imaginative. The scene in the first act where the gypsy girls sit on the steps of the cigarette factory and languidly sing is colorful, artistically staged, worthy of a painting. The way Escamillo connects with his female admirers during the Toreador Song is well staged. The flamenco and ballet scenes(inserting music from L'Arlesienne) are choreographed superbly. And of course the closeups of Carmen at her most seductive or Don Jose at his most angst-ridden are priceless. One caveat, the film is dubbed, but the quality of the dubbing is very professional, most of the time it's hardly noticeable, rarely is it distracting.

On to the singing actors. John Vickers has his detractors, but I am not one of them. Critics suggest that his voice is not beautiful enough, but I find no evidence of this, particularly in this performance. His Flower Song is heart-rending, enough to melt the heart of any Carmen. His Don Jose has a soul, a wounded soul in fact, loyal(in love at least) to a murderous fault while aware of its own weaknesses. It's a mesmerizing performance.

Mirella Freni has the correct ingenuous beauty, as well as the vocal chops to pull off a ravishing performance as Micaela. It's not a large role for such a big name, but Freni makes it large through the sheer force of her lung power. Her act three aria is among the opera's, and this film's, highlights.

Justino Diaz is a suave, handsome Escamillo with a powerful baritone voice. The Toreador song is sometimes difficult to pull off, with singer and orchestra competing for center stage, but Diaz olds his own against the forces of the Weiner Philharmoniker.

As for Grace Bumbry, what can you say? Her Carmen is absolutely smoking HOT!!!! Not only is her Carmen among the best I've ever heard, it is probably THE best I have ever seen. Instead of playing Carmen as an oversexed mankiller, she brings layers of intelligence and sophistication to the role, which not only makes her character more logical, it makes the unfolding of events more logical as well, and, as a result, this is probably the most thoroughly satisfying Carmen from my experience. Simply astonishing!

Von Karajan and his orchestral forces give a vital interpretation of the score, slow at times but always involving. I noticed only one cut, in the final duet between Carmen and Don Jose. Overall, the sound quality is very good. From an aural standpoint, you aren't likely to find a better Carmen anywhere.

Nor from a visual standpoint. The filmmaking is surprisingly good, and the video transfer is superb, bringing a brightness and purity to the colorful images.

Highly recommended.
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hot !!! Hot!! Hot!! Grace Bumbry As Carmen!! 24 July 2005
By Rudy Avila - Published on
The reviews for this newly released DVD have been very favorable and attest to the top-notch quality of the performance. Grace Bumbry as Carmen is liberated, dramatic, a tad cynical and tragic, sensuous and quintessentially Carmen, the perfect embodiment of the heroine that Bizet envisioned. Jon Vickers has incredible chemistry with Bumbry and as Don Jose is passionate, intense, dark and masculine; he is a man consumed by possession of Carmen and driven mad by jealousy. The final confrontation in which the inevitable stabbing occurs is fresh, frightening and highly dramatic, in fact the best finale I've ever seen, irregardless of the many times I've seen it. No other tenor and soprano made this final moment more visceral than Jon Vickers and Grace Bumbry. Mirella Freni sings her heart out as Micaela, and from her first scene in Act 1 as she searches for Don Jose among his regiment to the final scene where she, armed with faith in God (Je Dis que ne rien) confronts Jose in the criminal smuggler world he has become part of. Micaela is suddenly larger than life and not the minor character she can be reduced to. Mirella Freni sang the role of Micaela numerous times and handled it with grace and awe-inspiring dignity. A very young Justino Diaz, not yet a star, is the baritone in the role of Escamillo. He is elegant and masculine, singing one of the finer renditions of "Toreador" that I've heard but looking less than ideal opposite Carmen who towers over him in personality. Diaz had the right voice but lacked the right attitude for Escamillo. But this is just a small thorn in a very beautiful rose.

What more can be said about Maestro Herbert Von Karajan, largely considered the best conductor of the 20th century ? He conducts as if this were a live performance (which it is not) and keeps his eyes tightly closed, immersed in the music, a trademark of his as a conductor. The score is not the original Choudens score but the more traditional Guiraud score with sung recitative. Karajan tinkers with the score (he has done this with other works before such as Don Carlo, Trovatore and Otello). He includes music from Bizet's other tragic opera L'Arlessiene for the Spanish dances in Lillas Pastias directly after Carmen's "Les Triangles". The look of the sets are not lavish or detailed, but very effectiev in its simplicity. Authentic costumes, walls, floors, chairs, guitars, shawls, streets, shops and much more. But the star of this production is neither the sets, conductor but Grace Bumbry in a role that she made entirely her own. The more sought after Carmen at this time however was another black artist Shirley Verrett but after watching this Carmen, I can see why I have always preferred Grace Bumbry. She is exactly as Carmen is supposed to be. She sings the Habanera, Seguidilla, Gypsy Song, and Death Card Scene with the most dedicated musicianship and passes with flying colors. Carmen was a role she did outstandingly well, though Bumbry never really liked the role. At this time, still a mezzo-soprano, Grace was also taking soprano roles such as Lady Macbeth which she first sang in 1964, only a few years earlier than this performance!!! She would transition to soprano and enjoy success in such diverse roles as Elizabeth in Don Carlo, Bellini's Norma, Verdi's Aida, Santuzza in Cavelleria Rusticana, Puccini's Tosca and Richard Strauss' Salome. Now if only there were filmed DVD's of those performances!!!
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful music but problems abound 30 Jan 2009
By GaryTucson - Published on
Like other opera lovers, I had hesitated adding Carmen to my collection and after much thought, decided on this version without reading any reviews, having heard of its fame as the first to be put to DVD.

First, the music is wonderful. Karajan's orchestra is flawless and the sets are nicely done. The singing, by all the leads, is superior and the acting very, very good (except by Diaz). However, all this good stuff was undone by the poor translation from what must have been 8 or 16mm to DVD. Whoever mastered this should be shot. Either the lip-syncing was off from the start or the remastering put the audio track so far out of whack from the video that I was distracted from beginning to end with tracking that didn't sync and constant video popping that was clearly an attempt to bring audio and video back together. One minute the audio track was 10-30ms behind the video, then in sync with a jump of the video, then magically back out of sync. I completely disagree with the reviewer who said the lip-syncing was well-done. It was horrible and made an otherwise incredible production almost unwatchable. I loved the quality of the music and finally closed my eyes through much of the 2 hours just so I could enjoy it. I also finally turned on the English subtitles and read them instead of watching the great acting, marred horribly by words and music not in time with the mouth movements.

I honestly wish I could have gotten past this 'out-of-sync' disaster. The quality of music is well-worth the purchase, but anyone who has ever watched a good movie that seemed like an cheap, English-dubbed Japanese film because the tracking was so far off will find the same unavoidable distraction I did in this otherwise wonderful production. Consider this fair warning.
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