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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A surprisingly good Carmen, one of the best modern versions
The quick review - This is a very good modern Carmen that will not disappoint. You will need to be very critical indeed to find too much wrong with this set. Perhaps this would be ideally suited to someone who is looking at buying their first Carmen or who just wants the opera to add to a collection. The set comes in a booklet form with card slots in the front and back...
Published on 21 Aug 2012 by Trev-R

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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Curate's Egg Carmen
A great performance of Carmen should privilege instinct over intellect. Simon Rattle, coming to the score for the first time, has chosen to emphasise the latter. Instead of the brooding tragedy of Abbado's benchmark, Rattle gives us a clipped 'period'-like performance with an all-too-thinking-man's gypsy at its heart. Many of the choices pay dividends - not least when...
Published on 30 Aug 2012 by Entartete Musik


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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A surprisingly good Carmen, one of the best modern versions, 21 Aug 2012
By 
Trev-R (Boston UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
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This review is from: Bizet: Carmen (Audio CD)
The quick review - This is a very good modern Carmen that will not disappoint. You will need to be very critical indeed to find too much wrong with this set. Perhaps this would be ideally suited to someone who is looking at buying their first Carmen or who just wants the opera to add to a collection. The set comes in a booklet form with card slots in the front and back cover for the two discs. The booklet forms the filler pages and is around 60 pages long. The usual multi-lingual offering with track information, synopsis, some photos etc, just what you would expect.

The slightly longer version - Magdalena Kozená has a beautiful mezzo voice but I thought one that was not quite suited to playing the role of Carmen. How wrong I was, she brings her own magic to this recording and somehow seems to balance out the beautiful rich tones of Kaufmann who in my opinion is even more magnificent in this recording than the 2007 Royal Opera House DVD/Blu-ray. Every recording I hear of him he just seems to get better. I wonder however if his voice will soon be just too much for the role of Don Jose and he will have to leave the role behind.

Kostas Smoriginas's Toreador is believable and quite reasonable but not as good as D'Arcangelo from the 2007 ROH recording. In my opinion the singer that surprised me the most was the Soprano Genia Kuhmeier who's MicaŽla has the youthful effervescence I associate with the sublime Mirella Freni, still I think unsurpassed in this role.

Apparently Rattle said that his mission was to present the score in its original `Opera Comique' incarnation rather than as grand opera with spoken dialogue rather than the recitatives which were added later.

The real question for me was would Kozená be any good in the role. The answer is a resounding yes, if you have an preconceptions I would suggest you put them to one side and try this excellent recording. I would have given it 5 stars if D'Arcangelo had been cast as the Toreador, but that maybe just me.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Every man has his own "Carmen", 16 Sep 2012
By 
Stephen Kass "stephen kass" (markdorf allemagne) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Bizet: Carmen (Audio CD)
Every man has his own Carmen".
This has become clear to me after reading the reviews on Amazon UK and USA.
This makes it well-nigh impossible to discuss this new recording with ojectivity.
This figure seems to be the ideal projection surface for the erotic fantasies of the listeners of this opera.
How sexy is she, how rebellious, how defiant, how proud, how evil? Many listeners seem to have found their own "Carmen" a long time ago and any new interpretation is almost sure to fail when measured with this. What gets forgotten is that Bizet's opera is not only about her. There is Don Jose`s acute and devastating drama, the sad story of Micaela, the arrogance of the Toreador, not to mention the social aspects of the time. One could argue that Don José is actually the most interesting character; he certainly changes the most, from the loved son and well-behaved Brigadier to a muderer.
This fixation on the figure of Carmen has unfortunately blinded some reviewers to the merits of this new recording. That Kaufmann's Don Jose is an extraordinary achievement is almost universally recognized. Kümeier`s Micaela has even been compared to the legendary version by the young Freni. The duet in Act 1 between these two is very beautiful and touching indeed.
Then there is the orchestra and the conducting. They are of central importance in this opera, more so than in early Verdi operas for example. The Berliner Philharmoniker play their part with the necessary verve, passion and accuracy but also with an exceptional and seldom to be heard sensitivity and subtlety. Many passages have gained for me at any rate new significance and beauty. In addition I have heard details of the score and the instrumentation as never before. This alone makes this recording worth buying. The texts are clearly recited and sung, perhaps not quite how a native French speaker would speak them but one can't have everything. Such works do not belong exclusively to any nation. It struck me that in the famous Habanera Kozena phrases following the rhythm of the text. Is this what one reviewer calls HIP influenced? As a result the opening phrases of the "Habanera" have a clarity wnd articulation lacking in many other performances, in which the emphasis is only on the "sung-line" with glissandi from note to note. The small roles are exceedingly well sung and the choir is brilliant. Last but not least: the recorded sound is clear, natural and transparent, detailed as well as spatial with a good bass. The individual sounds of the instruments are rendered realistically in their specific "colours". The brilliance of Bizet`s composition is thus done full justice.
Whether Kozena's "Carmen" is the one for you is not for me to decide but this recording has so many other merits that it is certainly worth buying.
If after reading this, you think that I do not like Kozena's "Carmen" you would be quite wrong.
Hers may not be the most sensuous or beautiful "Carmen" but her voice has a characteristic timbre which I like. She phrases beautifully, articulates clearly (not clipped, as one reviewer wrote), controls her voice in all registers without forcing and creates a "Carmen" with many facets,instead of the one-dimensional figure one hears all to often. Her "Carmen" can also be gentle and sad, vulnerable: listen to her aria after her future has been foretold. She also has the power to be very dramatic or furious when required. In short she has conjured up a real human being.
Finally a provocative Question: Is the opera "Carmen" only interesting for men? What do women reviewers think of this "Carmen"? Are they fixated on Don José. Sorry to be so flippant but this opera is not only about a seductive woman, although she is undoubtedly the catalyst for the "tragedy".
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Kozena isn't a natural Carmen, but offers a new viewpoint to the role., 19 Sep 2012
This review is from: Bizet: Carmen (Audio CD)
Well, this recording is controversial.
I own at least 6 other sets of Carmen recordings. This one is unique in the sense that -
(1) Kozena is not born to sing this role, since her fach is inapt for the low tessitura, but she manages to depict, by her inflections and nuances, a Carmen that is more wilful and hard-headed than sexy and wild;
(2) Kaufmann sings most probably the best Don Jose for the past decade, Roberto Alagna included;
(3) Rattle's reading of the score places emphases on the despair more than the struggle, and one hears, almost at the outset, the despairs in the respective roles - Carmen, Jose, Escamillo, Micaela.
Kozena's Havanaise is not a mere display of sexual allure - it is an outcry of loneliness. Similarly her Avez-vous quelque chose a repondre? and Pres des remparts de Seville are a lonely heart's outbursts, with her slightly subdued yet nuanced renditions. The real deal of Kozena's Carmen lies in Act III's En vain pour eviter, forming the pillar of Kozena's characterisation.
In a similar veim, the dark bass baritone Kostas Smoriginas's Escamillo is a doomed figure despite the apparent glamour and excitement - he would never win his Carmen despite his aspirations and challenges to Jose.
In yet a similar vein, Rattle's choice for Micaela in Genia Kuhmeier is a cool and aloof 'onlooker' to the saga of Don Jose/Carmen/Escamillo than the involved jilted lover.
The passionate tenor Jonas Kaufmann sung a virtually perfect Jose in this recording, and his passion contrasts striking with the relatively cool castings of Carmen, Micaela and Escamillo. Just savour his Va-t'en...Tu ma disde la suivre!
This is definitely not a conventional 'Carmen' that one would wish for. The non-inclusion of libretto in a deluxe setting further adds to the fact that this purported production of a Carmen is aimed at conoisseurs instead of newbies.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Curate's Egg Carmen, 30 Aug 2012
This review is from: Bizet: Carmen (Audio CD)
A great performance of Carmen should privilege instinct over intellect. Simon Rattle, coming to the score for the first time, has chosen to emphasise the latter. Instead of the brooding tragedy of Abbado's benchmark, Rattle gives us a clipped 'period'-like performance with an all-too-thinking-man's gypsy at its heart. Many of the choices pay dividends - not least when delivered by Rattle's stunning orchestra - but much of this disc feels oddly engineered.

Aside from the Berliner Philharmoniker - you will never hear better solo and ensemble playing in this score - Rattle is gifted the major boon of Jonas Kaufmann. Eschewing crooning for a truly gutsy Don José (the like of which only Domingo has matched), he charts his terrifying journey from propriety to passion with great gusto. Sadly, it only serves to throw other casting elements into relief.

Magdalena Kozená is a surprising choice for the title role. Her cool delivery and often barbed attack - as on her recent recording of Dvořák, Ravel and Mahler with the same forces - is certainly dramatic, but such an ice queen approach inverts the character's trajectory. As Carmen moves from feral pariah to society whore, so Don José gives up rank and regiment in favour of his lover's unbridled fire. Kozená's showpieces are too pre-conceived for such an reflexive creature and, pitted against Kaufmann's lustrous tones, it sounds like she's been sitting sipping cocktails in Escamillo's villa for quite some time. As such, the opera's central tension dissipates.

Although Kostas Smoriginas shows similar vocal promise, the role Escamillo - and specifically when heard opposite Kaufmann - lies similarly out of reach. Don José completely dominates their sparring Act 3 duet, again undermining the drama. While Genia Kühmeier's dulcet MicaŽla and Christina Landshamer and Rachel Frenkel's nimble performances as Carmen's sidekicks do much to redress the casting balance, Kaufmann remains in a league of his own.

As if to iron out such dramatic idiosyncrasies, Rattle has chosen the naturalistic version of the opera,a s performed at the Opéra comique with dialogue. Sadly, few of the cast are native French and Kozená's froideur has a far-reaching impact, making the version's innate realism all-too safe. The brooding theme that comes hot on the overture's heels is weirdly stymied and, more often than not, Rattle pushes through a climax where expansiveness would reap rewards.

The Berlin Staatsoper Chorus may be in wonderfully fine voice and their ensembles are thrilling (not least in the party-piece second act) but you can't help feeling that, more idiomatically cast, Kaufmann and the Berliner Philharmoniker's efforts could have truly shone. This a curate's egg performance of a masterpiece and one that, despite Kaufmann's presence, cannot compete with its predecessors.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Must have for all Bizet "Carmen" collectors., 31 July 2013
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This review is from: Bizet: Carmen (Audio CD)
An excellent recording very well packaged and presented. If you are a Fan of Jonas Kaufmann then this is a CD well worth haveing. Thanks to all at Amazon for getting this item to me quickly.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Kozena's big birthday present from Sir Simon, 5 Nov 2012
By 
Andrew R. Barnard (Leola, Pa United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Bizet: Carmen (Audio CD)
I wonder how this all got started. Magdalena Kozena has enjoyed a successful international career, but how in the world did she land a recording deal to produce a Carmen in Berlin? Is she suddenly our foremost mezzo?

Of course something is suspicious. I wonder if her husband could be behind this. No doubt he was anxious to acquire a birthday present for her that wasn't the usual boring fare. Holding the keys to the most luxurious orchestral environment on earth, why not give her the title role in the classic Bizet opera? She was delighted, no doubt. After all, how many singers get to take a lead role in Berlin? Simon also assured her that he would find a great singer to fill the role of Don Jose: Jonas Kauffman.

The arrangement was admittedly cute, yet the problem is that neither husband nor wife had extensive background in the opera. Rattle is hardly known for opera, and Kozena's soft-contoured voice seems out of touch for feisty, rugged Carmen. So heading into this affair, we have a foreboding feeling that sincerity may not be at its highest.

But considering the team's disadvantage heading into this venture, the result isn't bad at all. By now other reviewers have pointed out the obvious: Kozena doesn't sound novel; she sounds out of touch. Her voice is beautiful, which is the problem--there's never a bratty moment. The singer whose commitment is undivided is Jonas Kauffman, who sings with heartfelt sadness while still sounding big and rich. The rest of the cast is first rate, but none showcase Kauffman's conviction. The Chor der Deutschen Staatsoper Berlin is a real joy; we can't complain here.

But I was most curious to see how the man at the podium would fare. First of all, I'm sure everyone wants to know if Rattle is fussy. While he certainly has mannered moments, he seems alert and alive. He doesn't sound particularly operatic, though. In his hands, Carmen veers towards a towering, forward-looking symphony with choirs and singers added. Some listeners will despise such treatment. But he sounds big and daring, with Germanic applications that occasionally makes us wonder if we've wandered over into Wagner. He's blessed with French sensibility, though, which keeps this from being all about bombast. I dare anyone to point to a Carmen where the orchestral accompaniment is half as thrilling.

The problem is that he engrosses himself in the opera's orchestration rather than its plot. Frankly, I don't care, because I'm not an opera fan to begin with. I love the stupendous orchestral playing guided by a conductor who lets every nuance pierce the ear. But most listeners will miss a maestro who makes the story come alive. To summarize Rattle's conducting, it's exuberant and passionate, but not operatic, which can cause it to sound somewhat episodic.

I'm arbitrarily giving this album four stars instead of three because I love the orchestral sound scheme and Rattle's enthusiasm, captured in dazzling sonics by EMI. Listeners will have to decide if it's worth the investment to acquire a Carmen where the lead singer seems uncomfortable and the conductor isn't operatic. If you get this CD, it should be for the vibrant Jonas Kauffman and the otherworldly playing of the Berliners.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Modern Recording, 2 Sep 2012
This review is from: Bizet: Carmen (Audio CD)
Carmen has never really appealed to me mainly because of the instinctive abhorrence I feel for the main character and the effort taken by the story teller to potray a vile, selfish and vulgar creature (a female Don Giovani you could say) as a fearless fatalist who loves her freedom. To me, Carmen is a monster, an honest one, one can claim, but still and always a monster. Don Jose is the poor guy who falls for the beast and suffers the consequences. However, that having been said, I find the music of this opera absolutely GREAT. Also, if you really think about it, the opera is essentially about Don Jose. It is his misfortune and downswing that the music follows. Jonas Kaufmann is in his element here. Away from the Italian repertoire, his voice rises to prominence. He gives a Don Jose to be remembered. He portrays a romantic man who makes a fatal mistake and not a milksop, which is what we usually get. Magdalena Kozena is holding back as Carmen and keeping the role to a distance. That will disappoint the fans of the Carmen character but didn't annoy me. Kostas Smoriginas could do with a lighter tenor. The Berliner Philarmoniker is impeccable. I give this a 4 star because of the absence of the libretto.
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18 of 27 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A total disaster ..., 6 Sep 2012
This review is from: Bizet: Carmen (Audio CD)
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, MicaŽla 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 PrÍtre 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 or DVD) 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 !
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely fabulous!, 30 Sep 2012
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This review is from: Bizet: Carmen (Audio CD)
I thought I was pretty sick of this opera, it is so will known that it has become rather dull to me. But the orchestra- the stars of is recording - are so spirited and competent, that they make it fresh and new - along with the sublime soloists, Kaufmann and Kozena, and all the other competent participants. Highly recommended!
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic, 22 Mar 2013
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This review is from: Bizet: Carmen (Audio CD)
I put on the disc closed my eyes and I was in the theatre It was wonderful .I would highly recommend this item
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