Carmen is not only my vote for THE french opera, but one of my favourite operas in general. The story and the telling of it is timeless, Carmen is an electrifyingly vivid characterisation and the music contains some of the best tunes in the opera world.
This Carmen is very good mostly, however the 1984 and 1967 versions for me are the best ones. The production with its sumptuous costumes, evocative backgrounds and clear picture quality and camera work, looks wonderful, and the staging is great too with the Flower Song appropriately poignant, the Card Trio and Fortune Telling scene riveting and the Choruses(the chorus are excellent and very well blended) lively without being too crowded.
The orchestra also do a wonderful job, but the real star of this Carmen is the conducting of Carlos Kleiber which has plenty of authentic Spanish flavour particularly in the Overture, Habanera and Les Voici chorus.
Mostly, the performances are great. Placido Domingo is superb, and for me the best Don Jose. He is sympathetic, passionate and moving, and Domingo becomes this interesting character and he is on top form vocally. Kurt Rydl is a good Zuniga, likewise with the performances of Frasquita and Mercedes and Isobel Bucchanan is a heart-breaking Micaela. Alongside the Fortune telling scene and the Flower Song, her Je Dis Que Rien M'Envouvente is among the best of the night.
I did on the other hand have mixed feelings on two performances. One was Yelena Obratzsowa as Carmen. Vocally she is superb, she is riveting in her death scene and Fortune telling scene and there is genuine chemistry between her and Domingo. What let her down was that in the Habanera and Seguidilla she wasn't quite as seductive as I would've liked. The other was Yuri Mazoruk, he has a wonderful voice and sings Toreador's Song with style, but he doesn't have enough charisma and swagger acting-wise and his French diction is rather gooey for my liking.
In conclusion, a very good Carmen, helped hugely by Domingo and Kleiber. 8/10 Bethany Cox
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