The Telegraph, 24 Aug 2012
Rupert Christiansen
Bizet: Carmen
This is a thrillingly fresh and vibrant version of Carmen, conducted by Simon Rattle, writes Rupert Christiansen.
5 stars

Magdalena Kozená (Carmen), Jonas Kaufmann (Don José), Genia Kühmeier (Micaela), Kostas Smoriginas (Escamillo), Chor und Kinderchor der Deutschen Staatsoper Berlin, Berlin Philharmoniker, cond Sir Simon Rattle

This thrillingly fresh and vibrant version of Carmen, based on performances given in Salzburg and Berlin earlier this year, deserves to rank with the classic recordings conducted by Beecham and Abbado. Sir Simon Rattle has always shown a rare affinity with the colours and flavours of French music, and his Bizet proves as dazzling as his Debussy or Ravel – full of swagger, exuberance and theatrical vitality, yet alive to the finer details of the orchestration as well.

This we may have expected: but what is pleasantly surprising is the success of Magdalena Kozená in the title role, which she presents as a convincingly cool and intelligent Carmen of real dignity and complex feelings.

Jonas Kaufmann is a heroic José, Genia Kühmeier sounds appropriately sweet and virginal as Micaela, while Kostas Smoriginas blusters effectively enough as the absurd Escamillo.

The chorus of the Deutsche Oper Berlin is superb, while the Berlin Philharmonic lets down its hair and plays for Rattle with magnificent abandon. If you are tired of Carmen or think you know the score backwards, here is a performance to make you fall in love with it all over again.

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