A studio recording, not a stage performance, marks the 10th
anniversary of the artistic "dream-team" partnership of Sir
Simon Rattle and the Berliner Philharmoniker. Sir Simon's wife,
Kozena (a real Lady as leading lady), sings Carmen with tenor
Kaufmann, another at the top of the excellent cast.
Carmen is the most frequently performed opera in the world
today, yet its premiere in March 1875 at the Paris Opera-Comique
seemed a failure, and composer Bizet died three months later,
aged only 36.
A ballet was inserted later and Carmen
became the most popular ballet in Europe within five years.
Rattle has returned to the original opera-comique version with
music interspersed with spoken dialogue, and shows its merits
with triumphant ease.
The production goes back to the
original chamber music feeling of the opera - not touting it as
Kozena does not need the heavy voice so
often heard from Carmens and by prima donnas in big Italian
operas. But she does embody the sexy cigarette girl and femme
fatale very beautifully, without unnecessary cliches.
Yet Kaufmann's Don Jose, in power and artistry, steals the show.
Even the minor roles were convincing and the chorus and
children's "urchins' chorus" also great. Brisk tempos work well.
The advantage of this studio recording (compared with
recorded stage productions in a theatre) is the sheer, detailed
beauty of thrilling sounds - gorgeous voices, clashing cymbals,
deep tones from string basses ... Only grumble: no libretto and
translation in the booklet. To decode the French, listeners must
go to Simon Rattle's website.
clarity of orchestral and vocal sound.