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Bizet: Carmen / Krasteva, Antonenko, Märzendorfer, Et Al

Bizet / Krasteva / Antonenko / Marzendorfer
Release Date: 10/18/2005 
Label:  Euroarts   Catalog #: 2054528  
Composer:  Georges Bizet
Performer:  Nadia KrastevaAleksandrs AntonenkoSebastian Holecek
Conductor:  Ernst Märzendorfer
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Brno National Theater Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Picture Format: 16:9 Anamorphic
Sound: PCM Stereo Dolby Digital 5.1 DTS 5.1
Region Code: 0
Duration: 165 minutes

The cover of the DVD announces: “The Open Air Event from the Festival St. Margarethen.” A first impression would describe this production as Cecil B. deMille does Carmen . It is big! The outdoor venue is enormous, the set is massive, and features a cast of thousands! With horses! The production team had many challenges: how to fill the large stage with movement but not detract from the primary action; how to light the stage, especially as the evening transitions from Read more daylight to night; how to place microphones to effectively capture the singers and orchestra, and how to design scenery that will service all four acts of Carmen . These challenges were successfully met.

It is a busy production, especially during the first and fourth acts. The principals and supernumeraries are everywhere. Massive stage lights keep the stage well lit even as the sun sets, removing natural light; the sound engineer has captured the voices and orchestra with clarity and immediacy; and the set, a street in Seville with several buildings and a bridge, all located at the bottom of a tall hill capped with windmills, is varied and interesting. In addition to the huge stage lights, numerous torches affixed to the buildings on the set burn throughout the evening, more torches on the bridge flame when Escamillo makes his second act entrance, and the evening is climaxed with a spectacular fireworks display.

The scenery dilemma is solved by changing the location for act III. Instead of a hideout in the mountains, the set remains a street in Seville. Various members of the smugglers band descend the cliff on ropes, while others, including Carmen, Frasquita, Mercédès, etc., stealthily enter the city in more conventional ways. This removes a rather romantic location (the mountain hideaway) from the action, but dramatically makes more sense. Instead of Micaëla and Escamillo wandering around in the hills (just how secret was that secret hideout?), Micaëla is at home and sings her act III aria from her balcony. Escamillo hears a gunshot and comes out of one of the buildings.

Capturing all of this action for television was no doubt challenging. For the most part, the viewer is obliged to watch shots that are either too tight or too distant; and images of this, that, something else, long, short, wide, him, her, them, all flicker across the screen. Close-ups of the principals are often ill advised. Their makeup is exaggerated and they have microphones prominently taped to their foreheads. I did not notice microphones attached to chorus members (although distinguishing which cast members were singers, which were dancers, which were extras was difficult), but many times, I heard the chorus singing and did not see any mouths moving.

This production uses the Opéra Comique version of Carmen with spoken dialogue, although the spoken text is minimal. Of the four principals, the two women appear to be more vocally secure with their roles than the men. Sebastian Holecek ( Escamillo ) brings swagger and confidence to the role of the Toreador; Aleksandrs Antonenko ( Don José ) seems ill at ease in the first act, but as José’s passion for Carmen develops during the second and third acts, his involvement in the character increases and he is especially good in the fourth. ?sa Elmgren ( Micaëla ) has a lovely voice with a nice bloom at the top. She does not play Micaëla as the sweet, simple, country girl with eyes perpetually cast to the ground. Her Micaëla has some spine and a sincere directness that makes the character interesting. The star of the show is Nadia Krasteva ( Carmen ). Ms. Krasteva has a warm, rich mezzo and considerable stage presence. Krasteva is at home on the stage; her acting is natural and commands the audience’s attention. The smaller parts are also well cast with good singing actors. All things considered, this is a very strong production of Carmen. The picture (NTSC 16:9 anamorphic) is sharp and clear; the sound is available in Dolby Digital Stereo, Dolby Digital 5.1, and DTS 5.1. Subtitles can be selected in French, GB (English), or D (German).

FANFARE: David L. Kirk
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Works on This Recording

Carmen by Georges Bizet
Performer:  Nadia Krasteva (Mezzo Soprano), Aleksandrs Antonenko (Tenor), Sebastian Holecek (Baritone)
Conductor:  Ernst Märzendorfer
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Brno National Theater Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1873-1874; France 

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