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.
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