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4.7 out of 5 stars15
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Prequel: Amazon has correctly listed this review of Bizet's Carmen with Alagna but also wrongly under the flamenco Carmen by Gades
Unfortunately this sort of double listing is quite common as Amazon's listing software seems to get confused by similar titles.
Reviewers are unable to do anything about this so please be patient and scroll to the performance that you are interested in.
Thanks, Ian Giles.


Now that this is finally also available on Blu-ray, many would rate this as the strongest contender for overall best buy especially as it pairs two of the finest singers available today in the key roles of Carmen and Don Jose.

Both Garança and Alagna naturally dominate this production, and as they comment in their brief interview between acts, they both feel that their earlier experience of working together on Carmen in London has enabled them to further develop their working relationship. The result is clear to see as there is an unusually high degree of dramatic tension created between them throughout this production.

In this performance Garança shows Carmen to be effectively focussed on her abilities to generate straightforward sexual desire in men she fancies and, as such, portrays a readily identifiable character type which will be fairly familiar. When apparently spurned she simply wishes to turn her attention to alternative options. This Carmen does not display the same level of inherent vindictiveness to be found in van Otter's Carmen at Glyndebourne or the violent unpleasantness portrayed by Antonacci at Covent Garden for example. This remains a very strong and believable portrayal of Carmen in its own right however and one that Garança clearly revels in.

Alagna is on top form here and gives a fine performance of a role that he has been closely identified with for years. As mentioned above, the previous on-stage partnership with Garança in Carmen has allowed a further deepening of the Carmen/Don Jose relationship which adds considerable veracity to this production.

The remaining roles are also well done with Barbara Frittoli an especially believable Micaela and one that Don Jose might well have been happy with under better circumstances. She is a stronger and more attractive portrayal than many rivals in a difficult role to project. Teddy Rhodes delivers an effectively self-possessed Escamillo with a suitably strong voice and matching characterisation. The remaining supporting roles are all of the same uniformly high quality.

The setting of this Carmen is noticeably less sumptuous than either the Glyndebourne or Royal Opera productions which are particularly strong in creating apparently historically accurate and detailed scenarios. This Met production, although effective in its own way, does not really match either of those rival performances. Given the excellence of all three productions as regards both singing and acting, this may be a key matter for consideration for some. Nevertheless, apart from that consideration, no-one should be disappointed with this Met production.

In summary, both Alagna and Garança are both on top form and achieve real dramatic intensity together. They are given excellent support from the rest of the cast and the orchestra under the talented Nezet-Seguin. The camera work is involving and of good imaging quality and the sound is presented in clear DTS-HD plus stereo quality. The usual Met backstage interviews and comment form the bonus material.

As mentioned in the title to this review, there are now three fine modern but contrasting Carmens for purchasers to choose from. All three are capable of generating enthusiastic support seen from their differing perspectives and will satisfy a considerable range of personal tastes and responses. All three are worth the full 5 stars in my opinion. Final choice will therefore be a matter of personal preference which must lie outside the scope of this review.
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Prequel: Amazon has correctly listed this review of Gades Carmen (flamenco dance drama) under Gades but also wrongly under Bizet's Carmen with Alagna.
Unfortunately this sort of double listing is quite common as Amazon's listing software seems to get confused by similar titles.
Reviewers are unable to do anything about this so please be patient and scroll to the performance that you are interested in.
Thanks, Ian Giles.

Carmen flamenco styled dance drama by Gades review

This is probably a good place to start investigating the work of Gades as it is such a well-known plot and well told by Bizet in his opera. However this example of the flamenco art combined with more traditional ballet skills as envisioned by Gades is able to extend the rawness of the emotional impact to an almost frightening degree.

Some background explaining how this fusion of ballet and flamenco came about may be of help at this stage: Gades, as a young man, studied classical dance as well as all the Spanish popular dance idioms. This dual interest and skill enabled him, uniquely, to fuse together the two art forms of ballet and flamenco. He believed that flamenco must also be shorn of all extraneous distractions in order to bring the essence of the dance to light. At this early stage he was also providing the choreography for classical ballet such as Bolero, Carmen and El Amor Brujo for companies such as La Scala. From 1981 he formed the collaboration with Carlos Saura, the film director, which resulted in some of his flamenco-based creations being filmed. These films had an enormous effect on ballet companies around the world and Gades became very influential in this way while continuing as a ballet dancer in Giselle for example.

This production brings the 1983 Carmen to our screens in an amazingly effective performance. The music includes specially pre-recorded Bizet extracts played by the Suisse Romande orchestra with considerable brio. The majority of the music however is pure flamenco - two guitars, solo singers and clapping. Precision ensemble dance to massed multi-rhythmic clapping has to be seen to be believed! The scenarios presented crackle with sexual tensions and competitiveness and an unmistakable underlying and ever-present threat of violence. This is not just between men but also between women and between the sexes. This is an artistic statement beyond any of my previous experiences and I found it gripping. This is not the same as comforting. There is not a moment of tenderness to be seen - not even in the highly disciplined acknowledgement of the final applause.

I am sure that I have failed to pick up or begin to understand many of the underlying meanings in all of this - subtitles would have been invaluable in the frequent sung parts, but I cannot see any reason to deny this the full 5 stars. Anything less would be my fault for failing to comprehend fully or properly. The recording is all you could wish for and there is a bonus in the form of interviews with members of the team. The sleeve notes are particularly informative. I personally would highly recommend this issue as an unforgettable experience and essential guide to a dramatic art form.
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on 13 January 2014
Watched this on television from a subscription channel and it was an immediate "must buy" for me.

An incredible and impressive staging of Carmen recorded at the Gran Teatre del Liceu, Barcelona.

The crowd scene in front of the bullring was so spontaneous and enthusiastic. To obtain the action and movement I suspect it was choreographed and intensively rehearsed yet was overwhelming.

Felt I was not a spectator of a stage production but being drawn in to participate on what was happening. Another amazing scene was the gypsies hideout. The stage had space of about eight Mercedes cars and a large cast. With the large number of people on stage it seemed to me that I was at Appleby Fair or similar gathering.

Makes UK Covent Garden seem like a Village Hall and the soldiers of the excellent New York Met production appear..... well ..slightly less macho!
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on 18 April 2013
Elīna Garanča is Carmen...

With this excellent production, Elīna Garanča does not play the role of Carmen; Elīna Garanča is Carmen.

I believe that, with this portrayal, Elīna Garanča is the Carmen that Georges Bizet envisioned when he wrote his score; a fiery, spontaneous, and indomitable gypsy girl, a zingarella, with a free spirit and a passion.

Carmen is only too aware of her hold over men. She despises them for their shallow vulgarity and toys with them, and their overly amorous affections, mercilessly. The famous aria, "L'amour est enfant de Bohême", reflects her malicious flirtation with the men and Garanča sings and dances the scene to perfection.

Carmen's flawed character is exposed when she meets Don Jose, a corporal in the army, and the only man to not be moved by her charms. Wantonly, she proceeds to seduce Don Jose, discarding her earlier flirtatious cavorting in favour of a more refined and restrained, and yet by the same token a more violent in its execution, approach. Carmen succeeds in gaining Don Jose's attention.

The seduction of Don Jose is completed when Carmen is arrested for slashing another woman's face in a fight. She appeals to her captor to release her, here Garanča sings "Près des remparts de Séville", by declaring her love for him. The limerent Don Jose, mesmerised by Carmen and with the promise of her love, aids in her escape. As a punishment, a spurned and jealous Zuniga, the captain of the guard, forces Don Jose to take Carmen's place in prison for the duration of her sentence.

Act II starts in Lillas Pastia's tavern where, with soldiers relaxing and smugglers plotting in the background, Garanča sings a sublime aria, "Les tringles de sistres tintaient", also known as "Chanson Bohême" or the "gypsy song". The aria opens with a languid and easy style which builds quickly and culminates to a feverish and unrestrained crescendo which sends a frisson through the audience. Bizet captures the tantalising scene to perfection and Elīna executes both the aria and the associated Spanish dance routine faultlessly.

I hope that this partial overview has whetted an appetite to see and hear more. I leave it up to the reader to delve deeper into this spellbinding opera, commending this production to everyone as the definitive Carmen. I hope you are as enthralled by it as I am and that you are able to lose yourselves to the music of the collective geniuses of Elīna Garanča, Roberto Alagna, and of course, Georges Bizet.
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on 10 August 2013
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on 20 March 2014
I watched this on sky arts, glad I never bought it or are likely to. By the way some of the reviews which speak of its excellence seem to be fir other production.
To business
The initial set is a phone box, soldiers march about singing about watching a crowd who are not there, while a chap in a loincloth runs round the stage and collapses from exhaustion. The singing and the voices are fine. The children mocking the soldiers are damp squibs. The chorus of cigarette girls dressed in the same overalls coats sing fine. Highlight is the soldiers vandalizing the telephone box. The soldiers are in modern uniforms, as is Alagna, who of course does sing well. Poplavskaya sings beautifully while dressed as a psychedelic tourist. Our heroine Uria-Monzon is a throaty mezzo, her voice does not gel with with me, but this is a matter of taste, even as a modern Carmen she is scarcely credible, but the lack of atmosphere from the spartan set does not help.
In act 2 Lillas Pastias bar is an open stage, a car arrives and Carmen and her friends get out and sing, a christmas tree and a deckchair are the props. When Carmen sings of the passionate dancing there is not any, but the orchestra are passionate enough. Escamillo arrives without entourage, but the soldiers chorus turns up. Erwen sings fine. Don Jose and Carmen having simulated sex does not exactly enhance the scene. Highlight the soldiers vandalise the car.
In the overture to act three a chap strips naked in front of a cut out of a bull, then runs off. Some cars arrive with luggage racks.Best bit Poplavskia aria. There is some visual improvment in this act but of doubtful relevance.
The prelude to the last act has the exciting spectacle of soldiers doubling as sceneshifters, they dismantle the bull.
Instead of the grand parade a crowd applaud a sunbathing girl in a bikini. they all rush frontstage to sing about matadors and picadors who are presumably in the orchestra pit.
At least shrock is dressed as a matador for the duet. When Don Jose hides in the crowd he is in the audience. It is with some relief that when He cuts Carmens throat plenty of mock blood flows.
To some up, if it had been a concert performance it could have been quite good, but Uria-Monzon has a long way to go dramatically and vocally.
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on 12 March 2016
I first saw this version of Carmen when it was televised and enjoyed it very much so when it came out on DVD I bought it. I have a film version of Carmen with Domingo and Migenes Johnson which has been a favourite for many years and would not normally go for such a modern version as this Beatrice Uria-Monzon one but for me she is Carmen and I like Alagna's portrayal of Don Jose very much. I doubt this would be everyone's choice as it is somewhat explicit with some violence - certainly a gritty version but for me certainly among the best.
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on 5 May 2013
This is an amazing dvd. Thoroughly enjoyed it. Would recommend it. Saw this on television and had to have it. A must for all opera fans.
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on 6 December 2012
I had expected this to be the clear winner in recorded Carmens, but I still prefer the Glyndebourne version with von Otter. In fact I prefer the voices of both Haddock and von Otter, which surprised me. I also think the Glyndebourne chorus is slightly crisper and orchesteral direction slightly better for acts 1 and 2. Otherwise, the staging is excellent and all other aspects are well up to the Mets high standards.
The acid question is, am I prepared to have all 46GB on my media center or do I squish it down to about 10. The answer I think is that it will probably get squished, but not just yet.
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on 11 November 2014
Prompt delivery. Have booked to see the Opera live and wanted to see a version of Carmen beforehand. Excellent version and well worth the money. I am sure I will appreciate the live performance after watching this DVD.
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