At the time of when it was first premiered, I think Carmen was dismissed as having no memorable tunes. Evaluating that opinion, I personally find that hard to believe. While the characters are wonderfully depicted, Carmen is difficult to pull off but also one of my dream roles when and if I turn professional singer but goodness doesn't the character live long into the memory, and the story riveting, the music is a huge part of the reason why I consider Carmen THE French opera.
This Met production I like a lot. And I agree it is underrated, if 3.4 was indeed the score 7 years ago,(unless it was the result of not that many voters) then this is yet again another case of IMDb losing credibility, thank goodness it is much higher now. The best Carmen I've seen so far is still the 1984 film with Domingo and Mignes-Johnson, but that's not a reason to dismiss this 1987 production, which is reliably done as is the case with the Met.
The sets may be a little too gaudy and lacking in authenticity perhaps, however the costumes and video directing are truly excellent and the stage direction is very assured throughout. The orchestra as always are wonderful and the conducting compliments the rhythms and melodies of the score very well.
The performances are very good on the whole. The weak link in my opinion is Jose Carreras, he looks dashing, has credible chemistry with his co-stars and has a truly lovely voice if a little faulty sometimes with the intonation and phrasing particularly in the first act, but the acting is rather rudimentary for my tastes. However Agnes Baltsa is a wonderful Carmen, while not as beautiful perhaps as one would like she is flirtatious and sexy as Carmen should be and her singing is rich and flexible.
Leona Mitchell is very poignant as Michaela, her act 3 aria had me weeping, but the best performance comes from Samuel Ramey as Escamillo in a role that he is perfect for(alongside Don Giovanni and Attila). And when it comes to the highlight of the night, my immediate answer would be the Toreador's song, with such power and control not only is Ramey's performance of it the most powerful and most musical singing of the night his rendition is one of the best I've heard too(and yes I have heard Jose Vam Dam, Lawrence Tibbett and Ruggero Raimondi, they're excellent as well).
In conclusion, a good production which I like a lot. 8/10 Bethany Cox
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