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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "I love her to distraction," sings Escamillo the toreador.
Put this "Carmen" in your trolley and you'll become the owner of exactly what the packaging says, a "Great Recording of the Century". The conductor Sir Thomas Beecham makes it great. This is his "Carmen", rather than the "Carmen" of the particular singers who take the leading roles. Even in the final moments of the opera, when...
Published on 8 Dec 2000 by John Austin

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13 of 22 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing
I looked forward to this version after much praise from various reviews and I was a bit disappointed. I should say that it is growing on me and I do have another version in my head as I listen to it (Carreras, Baltsa) which can often colour one's judgement. I enjoyed the final act a bit more and the final duet between Angeles and Ghedda has a bit of passion, but this is...
Published on 13 Dec 2001


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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "I love her to distraction," sings Escamillo the toreador., 8 Dec 2000
By 
John Austin "austinjr@bigpond.net.au" (Kangaroo Ground, Australia) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Bizet: Carmen (Audio CD)
Put this "Carmen" in your trolley and you'll become the owner of exactly what the packaging says, a "Great Recording of the Century". The conductor Sir Thomas Beecham makes it great. This is his "Carmen", rather than the "Carmen" of the particular singers who take the leading roles. Even in the final moments of the opera, when death and despair and being enacted on stage, it is Beecham who dominates. Listen to the magical moment before Jose's final outburst, "Ah! Carmen! ma Carmen adoreé". It is what the orchestra is doing, and very softly too, that communicates the force of the tragedy.
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.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars LES VOICI, 31 Aug 2005
By 
DAVID BRYSON (Glossop Derbyshire England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Bizet: Carmen (Audio CD)
In many ways Carmen seems to me more to resemble a modern musical than to be like other contemporary operas. The big ensembles and finales are 'operatic' in the usual sense certainly, and it settles down to being something like a normal 19th century opera by act III. However it's in the nature of things that it fixes its real 'profile' and identity in the listener's mind in the earlier acts. The role of the chorus in act I makes a big impression for one thing - Verdi didn't give his chorus this kind of role, but Bernstein did. Again, there is only one solo in the entire work that I would describe as an 'aria' in the usual sense, namely the one in act III which is explicitly so described, as if the composer was making this point himself. Carmen's Habanera and Seguidilla from act I are not arias but songs, and the distinction is not just a matter of the dance rhythms. Many of Verdi's heroines sing arias to ordinary waltz or bolero rhythms, but what they sing are still arias as we would understand the term in Mozart - if someone were minded to make the opera into an ordinary play these arias could be made into spoken soliloquies. If anyone were to try to make a stage play out of Bizet's Carmen, not only would Carmen's solos still have to be given as songs, much of the music comprising the entire work would probably still have to be there as songs, dances and instrumental interludes for the band. We might notice very little difference, especially if the use of the recitative texts, nowadays unfashionable and not 'correct', were omitted.
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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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good account of the traditional version, 2 Jun 2009
This review is from: Bizet: Carmen (Audio CD)
If you want the traditional version of Carmen, with recitatives rather than dialogue, then this is probably the best version on the market. Beecham, a master of this score, is bewitching in his conducting, with a turn of the wrist and a light sensuousness. There are other ways with the score (eg Karajan) but this is one of the best conducted Carmens. de los Angeles is also bewitching, but one wonders whether she is just a little too nice to be Carmen. As far as actually singing the role, she is one of the best Carmens on disc. Gedda is a fair Jose as is Blanc as Escamillo. Janine Michau, sadly, sounds more like Jose's mother than girlfriend, but it is a good piece of singing in proper French. The recording shows its age a bit but this is certainly a fine version, a labour of love by conductor and cast.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Intensity, 7 Aug 2011
By 
Per Arne Rudberg "P-A Rudberg" (Vallentuna, Sweden) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Bizet: Carmen (Audio CD)
One of the first operas I listened to. It made a huge impression on me. It was the drama between de los Angeles and Gedda that caught me. Just listen to their duet in the last act. Gedda's voice is so full of desperation that it feels 100% true.
Maybe Beecham is adding a bit too much sugar to the sound, but I forgive him because of the breathtaking lines that he creates.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic Bargain, 29 July 2010
By 
Allan Blonde (London & Sapporo Japan) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Bizet: Carmen (Audio CD)
No CARMEN recording is perfect but this Beecham directed performance, which has won accolades from the time of its first issue on Lp is one of the best and an absolute steal at the price. The sound in this pressing is also great. Snap it up now or regret not getting it later. Also, it would make a fabulous Christmas present. I just bought a copy of it for that purpose.
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13 of 22 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, 13 Dec 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Bizet: Carmen (Audio CD)
I looked forward to this version after much praise from various reviews and I was a bit disappointed. I should say that it is growing on me and I do have another version in my head as I listen to it (Carreras, Baltsa) which can often colour one's judgement. I enjoyed the final act a bit more and the final duet between Angeles and Ghedda has a bit of passion, but this is an opera all about passion and the emotions of a wild woman. De los Angeles has a lovely voice of course, but it's not how I imagine Carmen. I also feel Ghedda gave a slightly lightweight performance and his rendition of Le fleur que tu m'avais... left me unmoved. Finally, I was also unmoved by the conducting - such an important part of any opera and perhaps particularly a fast moving one such as Carmen. Beecham - much praised by everyone - seems to slow down far too much in places and you feel like willing him on to up the tempo.
I am trying to give a fair appraisal of this recording and overall it is very pleasant, but I really don't count it as a great recording of the century. Perhaps I will as time passes and I listen to it more - perhaps others can convince me of its merits. For the moment though, I am going to go back to my Carreras, Baltsa recording which I think is great and much better than the average reviews it receives on its amazon page.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars really good, 13 Jan 2013
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This review is from: Bizet: Carmen (Audio CD)
I bought this a a gift and the recipient was delighted and said it had everything on it and couldn't wait to listen to it.
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2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Micaela is performed so poorly it lets this down, 7 Jan 2012
By 
Trev-R (Boston UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Bizet: Carmen (Audio CD)
Having owned 14 CD and 8 DVD/Blu-ray versions of Carmen I can say that while the conducting of Beecham is excellent, Victoria de los Angeles is superb, Nicolai Gedda at his best and Ernest Blanc is reasonable, Janine Micheau is one of the worst Micaela's I have heard in any of the 'top cast' recordings. Vocally she sounds compacted and has none of the vocal youthfulness required to make this role a success. She was about 46 when this recording was made, at least 10 years too late and she was never really rated as an International star, mainly performing in France. Vocally today's equivalent would be Lesley Garrett. If you hear any recording made between 1955 - 1975 then Mirella Freni is 'the' Micaela and no one comes close to her. In fact I cannot think of any recording with a better Micaela including the latest Met and Covent Garden offerings.

If you can pick up a used boxed set for around £8 as I did then it is worth buying but there is absolutely no way I would pay full price for this version.

Despite Carmen being the most prolific Opera on CD and DVD IMHO there is no perfect version. Each and every one leaves something to desire, in this case of course it is a poor Micaela. The nearest I have come on CD is the 1964 version with Leontyne Price, Franco Corelli, Robert Merrill and of course Mirella Freni. Herbert Von Karajan conducts and he is in my opinion a better Carmen conductor than Beecham. Bizet: Carmen
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2 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Marvellous, 27 Sep 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Bizet: Carmen (Audio CD)
This is a classical work of genius. The music is very listenable, particularly the fabulous Habanera. If you need an opera fix, this will do nicely.
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Bizet: Carmen
Bizet: Carmen by Georges Bizet (Audio CD - 2000)
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