Georges Bizet: Carmen [Blu-ray]
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Fantastic cast with Roberto Alagna, Erwin Schrott, Marina Poplavskaya, Béatrice Uria-Monzon This prestigious 2011 production from the Gran Teatre del Liceu was staged by the world famous and highly controversial stage director Calixto Bieito, admired for his raw and evocative stagings.
Bieito´s muted Carmen brings a fresh vision. --Wall Street Journal
Roberto Alagna was on top form. --Opera
What really carries the drama is the performance of Roberto Alagna in glorious voice and looking as fit as a fiddle.***** --Opera Now,Dec'11
Roberto Alagna has always had a certain Mad Max to his temperment that,combined with his Italinate lyric tenor,has made him one of the best Don Joses in the business. --Gramophone,Jan'12
Bieito undeniably draws committed and detailed performances from his distinguished principals, as well as those undertaking smaller roles… The conductor Marc Piollet offers clean and stylish musicianship and the Liceu players are bright-toned and light on their feet. --Opera, May'12
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Allein schon Uria-Monzon ist ein Erlebnis: keine Operndiva ist so sehr molto sexy. Allein die Stimme hat den höchsten Suchtfaktor. Die Verleger wären gut beraten, hier mehr zu produzieren.
Alagna hat schon mit La Garanca eine reife Leistung gezeigt, die er hier wiederholt.
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Alagna plays his part brilliantly. He is seduced and naive. He is angry and frustrated. He has that "I can fix her" syndrome. Poplavskaya is always a pleasure in my book---and this role, while a small part, suits her. She is very naive and lost in the shuffle of the military and the gypsies...perfect.
Some of this is even a little disturbing as the gypsies put a little lipstick on a very young girl. Brilliant.
In all, this is a fantastic production. I worried about having these artists jumping over cars while they sing---man, that's asking a lot.
If it's in the budget, go for it. Here's a Carmen that goes well beyond the usual and somewhat boring Carmen productions. Smashing.
From the standpoint of the casting alone however, there's plenty of good reasons to like this production, which has the right kind of blend that is needed in terms of experience for the two principal roles and up-and-coming young singers for the supporting roles. With Roberto Alagna and mezzo-soprano Beatrice Uria-Monzon, both native French, the roles of Don José and Carmen are not just in reliable hands, but both invest a great deal into the interpretation, singing wonderfully and maintaining a strong presence on the stage. Erwin Schrott is a good Escamillo, again another fine actor willing to push interpretation as well as possessing a fine baritone voice - but this is a minor role for his talent. Marina Poplovskaya finds the right blend of freshness, innocence and purity that the opera needs as Michaëla.
As good as each of the cast are in their own right, the famous arias as good here as any interpretations I've heard - Alagna's 'La fleur que tu m'avais jetée' is terrific - they work wonderfully together and it's the duets and ensembles that make the biggest impression, presenting a refreshing new perspective on the opera. The orchestra and the performance are also superb. It's everything you expect Carmen to be, but with enough character, verve and energy of its own, and a willingness to explore the dynamic that make this something more vibrant and alive, (the HD sound reproduction on the Blu-ray is also outstanding), the music seeming once again to be organically part of the drama rather than illustrating a bunch of clichéd routines. It's a long time since I've heard this particular opera sounding so fresh.
How much of this is down to the stage production is debatable. Other than modernising the period setting however, the essence of the drama isn't touched or played around with, the emphasis shifted slightly perhaps to emphasise the masculine aspect of the opera and the culture of machismo (although a full-frontal naked bullfighter might be too much for the more sensitive traditionalist). Even if it were just for the fact of stripping away all those old routines and hackneyed gypsy imagery, Calixto Bieto's production, often minimal, the stage permanently giving the impression of a bullring, at least forces the viewer to focus once again on the characters and how they express themselves through Bizet's score and the libretto, and that alone is a bit of a revelation. Yes, everyone knows that Carmen is all about jealousy, lust and Latin passions, but removing the set-pieces goes some way towards restoring the balance of the other more noble aspects the theme of love beyond all reason ("Love is a gypsy child who knows nothing of the law") in the unconditional familial love on the part of Don José's mother and also in the purity of Michaëla's love for him. Whether it's obvious or not (and all the better if it's not), I'd say that the production and direction is certainly instrumental in achieving this. This is a great Carmen.
I have every Carmen DVD save for this one. Of the recent releases I liked the MET's version with Garanca and Alagna and the Royal Opera's Carmen with Antonacci and Kaufmann.