,  Feb 24, 2009
John Terauds
A great cast and conductor, a straightforward staging and one of opera's most reliable warhorses make for great entertainment.

This 2006 Covent Garden production of Georges Bizet's 1875 opera Carmen gets everything right (aside from a lot of mangled French pronunciation) and is a worthy addition to a DVD shelf.

The main attractions are the charismatic lead duo: mezzo Anna Caterina Antonacci as Carmen and tenor Jonas Kaufmann as Don José. They both have distinctive, rich and powerful voices, their singing is nicely nuanced, they can act and they are both good looking.

The whole cast is easy on the eyes. Standouts among the principals are Norah Ansellem, a suitably sweet, wronged Micaela, and Ildebrando D'Arcangelo, all raw power as the toreador Escamillo (but his low notes lack a bit of punch).

The chorus is a bit rough in spots, but the house orchestra sounds gorgeous under Antonio Pappano.

Tanya McCallin's designs don't stray from mid-19th century Seville, with detailed costumes and colourful lighting making up for minimal sets. Director Francesca Zambello makes the mounting jealousies between the love-torn characters follow a naturalistic arc.

The booklet includes a synopsis as well as an insightful background essay. There are no extras on the disc itself. The audio options offer surround sound, but it's not really there. If you're used to HD images, you'll be disappointed with the standard-def picture quality.

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