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Georges Bizet: Carmen / Marilyn Horne, James McCracken et al.; Met Opera Chorus & Orchestra; Leonard Bernstein

Notes & Reviews:

Let the debate be renewed! This Leonard Bernstein 1972 Deutsche Grammophon recording of Georges Bizet's Carmen, with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and starring the great Marilyn Horne and James McCracken fairly strongly divided critics then and afterwards with its daringly slow tempi (which others considered revelatory), a Bernstein trait that mushroomed, for better or worse, over the next two decades. Not up for debate, however, are the spectacular sonics, revealed anew thanks to advances in audio playback technology, which can now be enjoyed via this Pentatone re-release.

American Record Guide, July/August 2015
Pentatone packages the two discs inside a thick, CD-sized hardcover book that includes notes and libretto. If I wanted a Carmen on CD, this would be far from my first choice, considerably behind the recordings starring De los Angeles, Crespin, Callas, Price, Berganza, Troyanos, and even Gheorghiu.

Notes & Reviews:

Recording information: Metropolitan Opera House in New York, USA (09/1972).


Incredible sounding recording remastered from 1972
This two SACD set is a recording remastered from the original 1972 quadrophonic tapes, and it sounds fantastic. And with the outstanding job of the engineers that participated in the remastering and direct transfer from analog to digital, it is no wonder that the Leonard Bernstein led Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Children’s Chorus jumps out of the speakers. And with Marilyn Horne as Carmen and James McCracken as Don Jose, Tom Krouse as Escamillo, and Adriana Maliponte as Micaela, this listener had high expectations that were, for the most part, met. The booklet that comes with it gives some background information on Georges Bizet, who never got to see the success that his creation enjoyed, having died in his 30s. The full libretto appears in the booklet in French as well as an English translation.

At first, the pacing seemed just a touch slow, but Bernstein’s pacing allowed him to really bring forth the dynamic tension between Carmen and Don Jose, as well as the longing of Micaela to have her Don Jose back. Marilyn Horne does a fine job as Carmen, although where she really shines is in the Tavern when she shrieks at Jose when he declares that he needs to rejoin his regiment after getting out of prison. You can hear the fire coming out of Horne’s Carmen, and it is spectacular. And McCracken’s soft longing tenor voice is just perfect for the emotional needs of the role. Ms. Maliponte also deserves high marks for bringing forth sympathetic emotional feelings for Micaela, and further enhancing the tragedy that is to come as Don Jose chooses an understandable but ultimately dark and painful path.
The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra is outstanding (what else is new?), and Mr. Bernstein does a masterful job of keeping the piece flowing and emotionally engaging, while at the same time letting each singer shine when it is their turn in the spotlight. While nothing compares to actually seeing a captivating production of Carmen in person, this recording is a fine addition to my collection, and is strongly recommended.

Submitted on 08/03/15 by KlingonOpera 
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Works Details

>Bizet, Georges : Carmen, opera
  • Conductor: Leonard Bernstein
  • Ensemble: Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
  • Running Time: 83 min. 1 sec.
  • Period Time: Romantic
  • Form: Opera/Operetta
  • Written: 1873-1874