I am sorry not to agree with the former comments, but I can't let say that this Carmen is a "great modern recording". Since I am french this opera is of great importance to me. Nothing works in this recording, except Kaufmann who sings a marvellous Don José despite his german accent. Kozena (Mrs Rattle in the life) is definitely not Carmen, she uses portamento and "parler-chanter" in order to build her role and the result is only crude and ridiculous (listen to the final scene for instance). Carmen is a very complex role, but she definitely cannot be unrefined. Escamillo does not sing, Micaëla is only acceptable. And what about Rattle ? With one of the best possible orchestra, he conducts the score as he would play "Der Fliegende Hollander". Bizet requires subtil art of conducting together with passion. Those qualities are not fulfilled here, far from ...
The sound by EMI is probably a little responsible, the low part of spectrum beeing much too loud. The present recording has originally done for a multichannel SACD release, but EMI, as usual and stupidly, gives access to SACD only to japanese customers ! Whatever the reasons are, the stereo sound is bad. Concerning the booklet, nothing but marketing (as the music itself) ... some pictures ... but no text and no translation at all for people not speaking french.
Let's come to what should be Carmen. Fortunately, the discography offers some treasures :
First of all, the Beecham
recording with Victoria de Los Angeles, almost a perfect Carmen ; the rest of the cast, Gedda, Blanc and Micheau are wonderful. This recording is an absolute reference, never surpassed.Maria Callas
gave us also a breathtaking Carmen, an incarnation of the role, even if she could have been still vocally better a few years before. Gedda is still there, excellent, and Prêtre conducts with good taste.
More recently, Michel Plasson
with Gheorghiu and Alagna offer a good alternative to the former historic performances (and Hampson is Escamillo). One cannot forget José Carreras who was a great Don José (in CD
) as well as Vickers, both with not bad Carmen.
To conclude, if you wish enjoy the Don José by Jonas Kaufmann, buy the DVD
or the Blu-ray
. Antonacci is better than Kozena and Pappano less superficial than Rattle.
But no doubt that several recordings are necessary ... several except the present one !