|Index||4 reviews in total|
Maria Ewing has starred in at least three versions of Bizet's Carmen.
Her 1985 performance, from Glyndebourne, was what originally turned me
on to opera. To be honest, it turned me on to Maria Ewing and, through
her, to opera. The irony is that I cannot stand this opera any more. I
am not even sure if I would call it an opera; it is much more like a
Hollywood musical. Bizet's influence seems to have been felt much more
by composers and librettists such as Gershwin, Bernstein and
Hammerstein rather than 20th century opera composers.
Carmen has certainly been good to Maria Ewing. In this 1989 production from Covent Garden she combines sensuousness and volatility in a way that is thrilling and frightening. This production is to be preferred to the 1985 film because Luis Lima is a more effective Don Jose. Ewing and Lima are particularly effective together in the short, final act which is the only part of the opera that is through-composed without any spoken dialogue. It's as if Bizet was learning his craft and finally cracked how to do it in this final act. It's a pity he died three months later.
Ewing's 1999 version, filmed at London's Earl's Court, is a bit of a circus. Bizet purists will hate it because it uses Guiraud's recitatives instead of the spoken dialogue. To me, that is a big plus. The singers are miked in this performance; experienced on film, the sound is quite effective, with some of the ensemble singing coming over more clearly than in an acoustic performance.
Carmen is my favorite opera. Maria Ewing is my favorite Carmen (even
preferable to Victoria de los Angeles in the Beecham set from the
1950's). Zubin Mehta is my favorite opera conductor. So my pleasure is
complete with this performance from Covent Garden in 1989.
One of the major assets of this film is the realism of sets and costumes. The soldiers look like soldiers, the factory girls like factory girls, the smugglers like smugglers. The buildings look like what you imagine Spanish buildings of the 19th century looked like. The urge to make the sets look like futuristic concepts has been resisted.
Luis Lima sings Don Jose with commitment. It's great to hear a lyric tenor sing the part, instead of dramatic tenors like Vickers or Domingo. It is much more intimate and moving. Maria Ewing is tremendous as Carmen. She never lets go of the dramatic thread. See how she deals with the mass of dancers at the beginning of Act II (Danse bohemienne): she is always in charge of things. Leontina Vaduva as the good girl Jose is supposed to marry is sweet and winning. This is the Carmen DVD to have.
The nuanced, passionate portrayal by the lithe Maria Ewing of the tempestuous, teasing and seductive gypsy girl, Carmen, makes this production an enjoyable treat! Barefoot for most of the play, with the occasional insouciant cigarette between her lips or her fingers, Ewing successfully brings her character to vivid life. Luis Lima's Don Jose is one heck of a troubled, perplexed and ultimately, desperate lover. Nuria Espert's tone-perfect direction, Gerardo Vera's imposing and realistic sets, Franca Squarciapino's lovely and tasteful costumes, Barrie Gavin's astute camera work and editing, together with Bizet's beautiful music and the cast's compelling vocal and dramatic performances all contribute to this live recording's supremacy over any other filmed version.
Carmen is one of my favourites, and always has been, in fact I consider it THE french opera. I love the 1984 and 1967 films dearly, but this Carmen is one of my favourite ever productions of this terrific opera. On a visual level, this Carmen succeeds, the settings are authentic and the costumes wonderful to look at, Maria Ewing's in particular is stunning. And the picture quality and video directing are fine, as is the sound. Musically I cannot fault it either, the orchestra have so much passion and flavour to its playing and Zubin Mehta's conducting is electric yet allows some pathos in the Flower Song and Je Dis Que Rien Ne M'Enpouvente. The chemistry of the leads is most evident, the fortune telling scene is riveting and Carmen's death scene is one of the more dramatic and better staged interpretations I've seen recently when it comes to that particular scene. Maria Ewing is wonderful as the tempestuous Carmen, and Luis Lima is wholly committed, beautifully-sung and intelligently-acted Don Jose. Micaela is very heartfelt here, while Gino Quillico is one of the more exciting Escamillos I've seen and heard recently. Overall, a fine Carmen. 9/10 Bethany Cox
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