on 9 September 2011
This review is for the newly restored Blu-ray version of Carmen. This filmed version has been reviewed many times but as far as I am aware only two other persons have reviewed the Blu-ray versions. With this in mind I will concentrate my attention on the technical quality of the disc. Suffice to say that I agree wholeheartedly with the majority of people who commend the quality of the performance. It is superb and Julia Migenes is a fabulous Carmen. So sexy! How could anyone fail to be seduced by such a performance!
But now I must turn my attention to the video quality. I should say at the outset that video quality is important to me and I expect high standards from Blu-ray discs. However, there are many films of a similar vintage where the Blu-ray restoration has been far more effective. At the start of film the quality was reasonably good but it has to be said that the video quality dropped off as the film progressed and the quality soon deteriorated during the outside night scenes or where the lighting levels were lower. The video is on the soft side and the picture sharpness is only up to medium to good dvd levels - certainly not Blu-ray quality. I suspect that the fault lies with the original print rather than the restorative process. Who was the lighting engineer, I wonder? The video quality does improve quite a bit in the final 2 chapters but that does not wholly compensate for the large proportion of the film where the quality is not even up to a good modern dvd.
However, this is a historic film with fabulous performances from all the lead singers. For me it is the benchmark Carmen, despite a slight disappointment with the video quality. There is a choice of soundtracks, all of which are good although I preferred the 5.1 HD Master Sound mix. There is a good picture within picture chapter selection and the disc comes with a couple of informative extras. Most of these extras are in standard definition and at least one is reassured that the Blu-ray version is an improvement on the standard dvd.
The video quality must lead to a drop in the star rating. However, rest assured that the performance is top rate and is deserving of 5 stars!
on 21 December 2000
This fabulous film has been transferred on to DVD - and Columbia Tristar has made a nice, if workmanlike job of it. The picture is the correct widescreen ratio, enhanced for optimum resolution on widescreen TVs. The sound is in stereo, compressed using the Dolby Digital AC-3 system which is not as good as the PCM Stereo format of CD (which is also supported by the DVD format). So, whilst Columbia Tristar have missed a trick in not giving this the same CD quality sound as the CD soundtrack of the film (available on a 3CD set from Erato records/Warner Classics, by the way) the Stereo soundtrack is superior to a VHS Hifi tape and is on the whole well transferred. The lip-synching is good enough to make you forget or at least not care that it is lip-synched and at least the actors on screen are actually the singers (unlike some other more "experimental" opera films). The whole the is beautifully done with breathtaking cinematography, fantastic singing and acting and is an engrossing experinece. For the feint hearted/those of a nervous disposition a warning however: the film opens with some pretty explicit scenes of what I think is a real bullfight (it looks like it anyway - I can't really see a real bullfight getting past the BBFC but you never know this being an "art house" film!) Could have been better from an audio point of view but Highly Recommended!
on 13 December 2000
First a word on DVDs. Reviewing opera on DVD is not easy, with a CD there are several factors to consider, the quality of the singing, the orchestra, the conductor, and the quality of the recording. With DVD in addition you have to worry about the acting, the casting, costumes, the setting, lighting, choreography, synchronisation between video and sound and the quality of digital transfer With so many things to go wrong it easy to pick holes in any DVD offering, but that is not the point, opera on DVD is really a tremendous development. For years I struggled to read librettos, trying to follow the plot while listening to CDs or operas broadcast live from the Met, while at the same time keeping track of the words and my place in the English translation. It was not easy, I never really managed to gain a clear picture of the characters or the plot, missed out on many of the subtleties, and was never very clear as to exactly why the soprano was singing this particular aria at this particular time. With DVDs all has changed, it is like a live performance with surtitles, you can see the drama read the words on screen and link it all to the music, wonderful. In future I will buy two version of my favorite operas, one on DVD to learn the opera and the second on CD to enjoy the recording of pre video-era stars.
One word on the sound quality, currently this is really limited by the DVD player, all DVDs contain a sound track that is uncompressed and of higher quality than CD, however as far as I can see at present (Dec 2000) apart from a few high end exotica there is not a DVD player in the world capable of reproducing the sound on DVD disks at even CD quality. Hopefully this will change soon, but rest assured that the sound quality of the disk you buy today will suffice for a very long time into the future, whatever happens on the technology front. One caveat is the possibility that multichannel surround sound will take off, which may mean some current disks will be limited, but personally I doubt it will ever happen.
So to Rosi's Carmen, best described as an opera shot on location, the scenery is lovely the drama all the more realistic. A video of an opera house production is often disappointing in the scenery department, what may appear realistic from a seat in the circle, may look faintly ridiculous to the camera's analytical eye; this opera completely avoid the problem. On small criticism is that the company sometimes acts as if they were still constrained by a small stage, one example is where the soldier chorus all take one step forward as they start singing, very unnatural and a bit jarring mainly because the opera looks like a film and hence we expect high quality acting. Julia Migenes is Carmen, she trained for the role for months and for me is perfect in looks and voice. Placido Domingo's singing is terrific as usual even if his acting is bit stiff, on the other hand Spaniards are reserved and Spanish soldiers quite formal and so his approach is probably correct, if severely contrasted to Carmen's liberated lifestyle. Faith Esham's role as Micaela is beautifully sung if self-consciously acted, Ruggero Raimondi is totally convincing as Escamillo.
The playing of Orchestre National de France under Lorin Maazel is excellent. Sound and video quality are first class, for me the whole package is exceptional.
One note: The introduction contains a grim bullfight scene, even though I have seen several on Spanish TV on the DVD it was very clear, bloody and heartbreaking, I know it is integral to the plot but skip to the next scene.
on 26 January 2006
Carmen is certainly not one of my favourite operas, yet this production is a fantastic movie. It has been filmed outside on beautiful locations and provides a feast for the eyes. If you like opera movies, this one is a must-have.
on 26 May 2005
Julia Migenes-Johnson is the most wanton, flirtatious, outright outrageously sexual Carmen I have ever seen, or listened to, in Francesco Rosi's lush 1984 film adaptation of Georges Bizet's opera, "Carmen," filmed on location in Andalusia. The casting of the fiery femme fatale is essential to the success of the opera, because the diva must be able to project femininity, defiance and sensuality, as well as a phenomenal mezzo-soprano voice in order to be believable. After training for ten months to adapt her natural soprano to the mezzo range, Ms. Migenes-Johnson brings Carmen to life in a manner which I have never seen. Opera purists may quibble because she was cast in a mezzo role - but why not, if she can sing the part? And her singing and acting are exciting...brilliant, actually! She really makes one understand the tremendous erotic attraction between Carmen and Don Jose, and why the honorable soldier fell so tragically in love with her.
Italian tenor, Placido Domingo, excels as Don Jose, the sincere army corporal who becomes obsessed with love for the feckless gypsy woman. Domingo's voice is in top form here, and he is convincing and absolutely dashing, in what I believe is his finest screen performance. The supporting cast is superb - especially bass Ruggero Raimondi, who plays suave Escamillo, the toréador who competes for Carmen's affections; and Faith Esham, as Micaëla, Don José's lovely and loyal hometown sweetheart. Those who act the parts of Spanish peasants and gypsies, really add to the illusion of reality. The music, performed by the Orchestre National de France, conducted by Lorin Maazel, is first rate, of course.
This famous nineteenth-century opera was originally based upon a novella by Prosper Mérimée. The story is about a poor and honest soldier who is seduced by a sensuous gypsy. His love for her becomes his eventual downfall when she abandons him for a lauded toreador. The opera was looked upon as scandalous, tres risque, for the period. When it premiered, it was called "sordid" and "unmelodic."
"Bizet's Carmen," (as this film is titled in the US), is first and foremost an opera film - and so much more than a live recording of a static stage performance. This highly energetic production was shot almost entirely in southern Spain. The real sceneries, (no artificial stage sets), are shot outdoors and feature beautiful pastoral landscapes, as well as those drenched by the southern sun, the bull fight arena, and colorful gypsy camps, lending an extraordinarily rich and open atmosphere to the movie. Pasqualino De Santis' cinematography captures the settings perfectly - and his opening shots of the bull fight are exquisite and powerful. Also, Bizet's original dialogue is used, as he meant it to be, (and is well translated with English subtitles), which makes the opera more accessible to audiences. For a period, after Bizet's death, recitatives were written and commonly used in the opera's performances rather than dialogue.
One does not need to be an opera aficionado to appreciate this compelling film and become caught up in the drama and the glorious music. This is one of the first operas I watched all the way through, and I found myself riveted to the screen. I became motivated to explore other operas after enjoying this one so much, and bought the VHS tape back in the mid-1980's. I recently purchased the DVD. The only extras are two trailers. The first is of "Carmen" and the second, "The Dream Life of Angels," which is an excellent film, but I don't understand its relevance here. I'm not complaining, mind you.
I cannot recommend this film highly enough. The performances are outstanding and extremely realistic. This is a work of art to be enjoyed by the novice and opera connoisseur alike.
on 20 February 2012
Opera films are not always very successful but this version of Carmen is a triumph. Immense effort has gone into the production values concerning space, choice of locations , proper authenticity and the handling of large crowd scenes. Neither the music score nor the singing can be faulted. The choice of the petite Julia Migenes for the title role was inspired casting. The actress/singer looks absolutely right, she is totally in charge of Carmen's mercurial disposition and mistress of the character's changing emotions (fixation, disappointment, irritation and finally contempt) in her relations with the hapless Don Jose. The only performance to nearly match her is that given by Agnes Baltsa in the Metropolitan's lavish 1987 production. Despite his fine singing Placido Domingo does not come across as being entirely at ease as Don Jose and gives a rather stiff performance. In the final confrontation with Carmen he looks too much the gentleman and it is hard to accept that this once devoted son is now a fanatic contemplating murder. In the expanded part of Escamillo Ruggero Raimondi is totally convincing as the bullfighter. The fine soprano Faith Esham, who deserves to be better known, sings the part of Micaela beautifully but although her looks convey both Micaela's innocence and vunerability she is a rather selfconscious actress
A word of warning for those concerned with animal welfare. The film's opening credits are mounted on a film sequence graphically depicting the final miseries and ritual execution of an exhausted bull. The not over convincing reason for such a begining are explained in a special feature (Carmen, a Shooting Diary) but whatever the relevance the sequence has the power to both distress and offend.
This version of Bizet's most famous opera is filmed on location in stunning Spanish countryside. It stars Placido Domingo (a young version, this is a 1980's production) and Julia Migenes-Johnson. The subtitles (the film is in French) are useful and not intrusive on the DVD version. The DVD does not have any of the normal extras making do with a Theatrical Trailer only. The standard of the singing and orchestra is first class.
on 28 September 2011
We first purchased this version of CARMEN many years ago on VHS it is without doubt the best version of CARMEN on tape or DVD, JULIA MIGENES IS THE BEST CARMEN EVER
Anyone who likes music should purchase this DVD, everything about this film is perfect. DO NOT MISS IT
on 4 March 2007
The opera itself is one of the greats, full of great tunes and colourful writing. This film adds to it the gorgeous colour of location shooting in Spain. In Domingo we have a top singer who is also a top actor and in Julia Migenes, we actually have a Carmen who looks the part of the sultry temptress. It all adds up to a big success and marvellous enjoyment.
on 19 November 2000
Filmed in Spain, full of the local atmosphere. The production includes some spoken dialogue along with the recitatives. Carmen is brilliantly portrayed, sure of what she wants, passionate in seeking it. Julia Migenes-Johnson dances and sings with great character. Domingo as Don Jose goes from buttoned-up trooper to tender lover to crazed 'ex', his singing virile, seductive never ranting. Ramondi cuts a dashing figure as Escamilio and Rosi has given us a life-like realisation of all the scenes, factory, inn, mountain and bullring, beautifully filling the instrumental sections with visual images. Faith Esham is a touching Micaela. A superb cast finely directed. A film brimming with life and colour as well as jealousy and menace and - Bizet's evocative music.