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4.4 out of 5 stars8
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This Royal Opera production, in superb Blu-ray or DVD formats, features a darkly aggressive Carmen with mutual hatred and a desire to destroy brought out strongly. This approach is made far more effective by use of the spoken script as Bizet intended rather than the recitatives that replaced the script later and are still often used.

The opening scene rightly emphasises Don Jose's murderous past more strongly than usual prior to joining the army as his escape from the law with an opening stage sequel showing Don Jose being taken off to be executed. Early in the opera Don Jose informs his commanding officer of his violent past which led to his joining the army. This essential violence in Don Jose's character is matched by that of Carmen but not understood by her for its likely conclusion. Kaufmann's Don Jose is not a weak man but rather a dangerously unstable man.

Antonacci, in this production, portrays Carmen as an essentially dominant woman intent on controlling men through sexual availability in order to achieve conquest over them. This is not the same as being interested in having a serial sexual interest in men. There is no indication in this production that this Carmen actually enjoys either men or sexual relationships. This is simply a story about power and control with a strong undercurrent of latent violence which leads to its inevitable conclusion.

Both Kaufmann and Antonacci sing and act their respective parts well and convincingly. Kaufmann is especially impressive in this dark portrayal and one which his voice suits perfectly. His portrayal is of such an outstanding nature that Don Jose's character and decline has an equal dramatic weight to match those features of Carmen.

The supporting roles are also well done with a splendid and handsome Escamillo (D'arcangelo) making his first entrance on real horseback - a strongly egocentric and sexual conception and well sung so it is easy to see why Carmen would be attracted to such a man. The part of Michaela is also well portrayed although she is clearly no match for the attractions of Carmen. This is a difficult role to make attractive and Norah Amsellem makes a creditable job of it. The two lead gypsy girls are excellent in their roles and make a strong team with the gypsy men. The women of the chorus enter fully into the rather seedy spirit of their part of the production and this is particularly apparent in the opening tavern scene in Act 2 and in all the factory scenes in Act 1. The male chorus members make for convincing soldiers.

The setting is of the period and is very fully staged with lots of period detail and atmosphere. This relates not just to the staging but also to the costuming so this production could be summarised as an enhanced traditional production. The whole opera benefits from the drive generated by Pappano and his orchestra. Overall this is a grippingly vivid and destructive version based upon the mutual need to dominate.

The camera work is fully involving and enables the viewer to feel part of the action. The imaging is crisp with good colour rendition. The sound is presented in DTS 5.1 and stereo.

In summary then, this production is likely to give much satisfaction and can offer a setting of the correct period and with a cast that can both sing and act well. The recording has good production values with excellent surround sound and good camera work. It takes its place among other recent fine issues such as those at Glyndebourne and The Met and personal preferences will be the deciding factor when it comes to choosing which to buy. All three listed above are equally fine in their differing ways. In my opinion this is a worthy 5 star issue and should give much musical and dramatic satisfaction to future purchasers.
22 comments|27 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 22 June 2009
This is a difficult production to criticise as there is a lot of passion and fine acting and singing from Anna Antonacci as Carmen and Jonas Kaufmann as Don Jose BUT the balance between the vocalists and the orchestra is wrong.
The audio quality is fine with the orchestral sound excellent but it dominates the vocalists with their sound recessed and distant. Add in that Ildebrando D'Arcangelo is a less than compelling Escamilo making this production a limited success.
A pity because the vocal/orchestra unbalance is the fault of the engineers who by this bad audio mixing have depreciated the efforts of some very fine singing. My previous favourite Carmen was also a Covent Garden effort but 15 years earlier and on laserdisc. I put it on just to see if my memory was an illusion but no, Maria Ewing is a sensational Carmen AND the vocal/orchestral mix on this LD production is what it should have been on the latest BluRay. But the video quality on this old laserdisc is pretty ghastly with washed out colours so no real competition to the 2006 effort.
Many of the scenes are dark and this has not favoured otherwise clear picture quality. So I have only given this BluRay video 4/5 overall.
So there you are, glorious orchestral sound but the overall audio balance not good. That said it is a great, tuneful and dramatic opera. It is not a disaster, but a bit of a disappointment for me.
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on 5 March 2013
A superb production of Bizet's classic opera. I have seen many a lack lustre performance of Carmen but from the very first beat, this show is pure excitement mingled with red raw sexual passion. Great Artistes, Set and Production. A must have DVD.
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on 18 January 2013
This is an excellent quality recording with both the orchestra and the vocals sounding nicely "present".

The only thing that doesn't go well with my taste is Norah Amsellem's singing. This may be just me but I find her vibrato on higher or louder notes somewhat excessive and grating, which is annoying as the general characteristic of her voice is lovely. I may have a dissenting opinion to some other reviewers, but it is interesting that the one problem for me is another reviewer's highlight...
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on 26 July 2015
Good performance
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on 19 October 2014
Carmen as it should be performed, passionate, beautiful and captivating!
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on 31 January 2014
speed of music seems a little too fast and spoils the enjoyment and the me3aning of the plot .otherwise wonderful but hard to listen to.
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on 11 November 2014
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