Customer Review

117 of 121 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An exceptional package, 13 Dec 2000
This review is from: Bizet: Carmen -- film version [DVD] [1985] (DVD)
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.
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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 13 Apr 2010 13:49:53 BDT
WT Mitchell says:
as for the review of the singing ,the casting ,the acting ,the scenery.and all the technical stuff...I agree..it is superb !
but this business about the bullfight dismays me ,on the assumption that only reasonably educated adults will be seeing this opera,how can any sensible adult person find anything to object to ,have they no conception about what goes on in abattoirs,do they really believe that every animal is killed with care and kindness

Posted on 20 Jun 2011 18:07:04 BDT
Coolman says:
Thank you for your review.

I have a few Blueray discs and although I notice only a slight improvement in picture quality even with good HD equipment, the quality of the sound is noticeably much higher.

Anyone else finds this to be true?

Posted on 22 Jan 2012 22:35:55 GMT
Thankyou for your technical review. Try playing it on a Bose, see if you notice any difference in quality. Bose shops have a demonstration room which is a closed room, take your dvd to them.

Posted on 30 May 2014 17:02:43 BDT
Music lover says:
J. Howard's thoughtful review is makes most interesting reading. He is of course right to say that the best sound comes from the best (i.e. expensive) DVD player. It goes without saying that you will get better audio and visual quality from a top of the range DVD player via an HDMI cable than you will from a cheap player via an old fashioned SCART socket.

However, there is a limit to what technology can achieve. You cannot expect a "restored" or remastered version which was recorded in the pre digital era to be anything like as good as a modern digital recording. This is particularly noticeable in the darker scenes of a pre digital film, where some of the picture will appear grainy. A large television screen (say, 50 " or so,) makes this even more obvious to the eye. If anyone doubts this, and if they still own the old fashioned equipment alongside the modern, (I do,) let them compare the quality of a video cassette with the quality of a DVD.

The thing is : many of the very finest opera productions recorded date from the pre digital age.

So, it doesn't do to expect too much from any production filmed/recorded in the pre digital age. (Think for example of Caruso in the era of acoustic recording Would you rather not hear his voice at all ?)

"A video of an opera production is often disappointing in the scenery department." Very true ! I couldn't agree more. But in, say, a telecast of a live performance in an opera house, the camera is not free to move about as in a film. In this respect, Rosi's Carmen seems to me to combine the best of both worlds.

And it is a masterpiece.
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