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Bizet: Carmen / Garanca, Alagna, Nézet-Séguin/Met [2 DVD]

Album Summary

>Bizet, Georges : Carmen, opera
Performers Conductor Ensembles Composer

Notes & Reviews:

After her triumphant success as Carmen in Riga, London, and Munich, Elina Garanca, "the Carmen of our day" (News, Austria), took the Metropolitan Opera by storm when filmed live in January 2010 for this 2-DVD release. Every generation has its "go to" Carmen. In 2010, the list of definitive gypsy seductresses - glittering with names like Baltsa, Bumbry, Calv, Farrar and Stevens - is enriched by the addition of Elina Garanca. Garanca is joined by international superstar tenor Roberto Alagna, who gives an impassioned and fiery performance and the infatuated and eventually murderous Don Jos. Carmen, opera's archetypal femme fatale and a touchstone role for mezzos, is Elina Garanca's calling card throughout 2010.

"British director Richard Eyre's Carmen was recorded on January 16, 2010 at the Met, just weeks after its premiere. He has updated the opera from the 1830s to the 1930s, in the midst of the Spanish Civil War, an era of cruelty and oppression in keeping with the opera's criminality and violence. He focuses on the characters' stubborn refusal to submit, and gives us strong-willed, tough people to deal with. The locals resent the soldiers; the cigarette girls are poor workers in their unappealing outfits, emerging from a basement workplace--a veritable hole-in-the-ground--into what seems like almost toxic heat and humidity.

In the first act Rob Howell, the set and costume designer, has placed a fence around what appears to be a ruined bullring; the children look like caged animals when they first appear. The set itself is a huge drum-like structure that revolves to change the scenes; it is made of broken walls evoking a city (or world) in disrepair and decay. It casts the right spell.

The new Carmen, Elina Garanca, is finely drawn. During the Habanera, rather than dance she takes the time to wash her legs with water from a bucket. It's as sexy as it is natural. She's quick to anger--she kicks and spits--but her general indifference is as alluring as it is frightening. Garanca's voice is beautiful from top to bottom and she never pushes it. Set in this production, with a remarkably sympathetic conductor, her Carmen is a sensation. The fact that she's beautiful certainly helps, and the camera loves her.

Roberto Alagna's Don José begins as just another anonymous soldier in Franco's Guardia Civil; he is easily smitten by Carmen and keeps trying to escape from her, but he can't find the moral courage and he hates himself as a result. His final scene is a study in lunacy. Vocally, he is in fine shape, and if there is the occasional strain on loud, high notes, he makes up for this with intelligent, nuanced phrasing (the B-flat at the close of the Flower Song is approached and hit at a whisper) and, of course, exquisite French enunciation.

Baritone Teddy Tahu Rhodes makes a handsome, full-of-himself Escamillo, and he deals with the wide tessitura of his song with ease and acts convincingly. He's fierce in the third act when he challenges José and is sensual in the last. Barbara Frittoli's Micaela is a bit mature, both vocally and physically, but she convinces anyway. Keith Miller is a terrific, dark-toned Zuniga, and the others in the cast are splendid. The children's chorus never has sounded (or acted) better.

Canadian conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin easily could be considered as the star: from a big, fast opening prelude he moves to a far more intimate, textured, indeed very French approach. There are dozens of small details to relish, and for once the last-act prelude does not sound like cats knocking over trash cans. Christopher Wheeldon's choreography includes two ravishing moments during the soft preludes to Acts 1 and 3--pas de deux brilliantly lit by Peter Mumford (the first in blood red, the second in iridescent blue) and danced by Maria Kowroski and Martin Harvey.

Renée Fleming introduces the opera and interviews Alagna and Garanca after Act 2 (they're charming); DVD 2 contains three tiny interviews with the conductor, Frittoli, and Tahu Rhodes and Wheeldon. Sound and picture are all one could ask for."-classicstoday.com

BBC Music Magazine, December 2010 *****
...everyone on stage, from stars to comprimarios and children (authentically underfoot), crackles with individual life, ideal on video... Garanca's clean-cut Baltic mezzo and fresh good looks suggest not the stereotypical gypsy wench, but a free spirit, intelligent and willful.

Gramophone Magazine, November 2010
Here is an opera DVD where, rare in my experience, each individual element matches the excellence of the others: production, cast, performance, film direction and use of the medium....Garanca has a fine sparring partner in Alagna - both roles are as well acted as they are sung...Halvorson's fluent direction conveys a real sense of occasion to the whole evening.

MusicWeb International, August 2010
Not only does Ms Garanca sing with wonderful enunciation, but also with meaning and a wide variety of tonal colour. In her singing and acting she exudes Carmen's sexuality whilst not over-egging it with hip swinging and flaunting...Along with Elina Garanca, the big plus of the performance is found in Yannick NTzet-STguin. His idiomatic conducting has verve, vitality and sensitivity.


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Works Details

>Bizet, Georges : Carmen, opera
  • Performers: Roberto Alagna (Tenor); Barbara Frittoli (Soprano); Elina Garanca (Mezzo Soprano); Keith Miller (Baritone); Teddy Rhodes (Baritone)
  • Conductor: Yannick Nézet-Séguin
  • Ensemble: Metropolitan Opera Chorus
  • Period Time: Romantic
  • Written: 1875