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Bizet: Carmen / Gardiner, Antonacci, Richards, Gillet, Cavallier

Bizet / Antonacci / Gill / Gillet / Mvc / Gardiner
Release Date: 11/09/2010 
Label:  Fra Musica   Catalog #: 4  
Composer:  Georges Bizet
Performer:  Anna Caterina AntonacciNicolas CavallierAnne-Catherine GilletAndrew Richards,   ... 
Conductor:  John Eliot Gardiner
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Monteverdi ChoirOrchestre Révolutionnaire et RomantiqueMaitrise des Hauts-de-Seine
Number of Discs: 2 
Length: 2 Hours 50 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Behind the near-mythical figure of the emancipated woman, the dazzling spectacle of the group tableau and vibrant seduction of the Spain of dreams, all its authenticity and brilliance have been restored to the world's most performed opera in the opera house where it was first performed in 1875. A veritable back to the origins for the masterpiece by Georges Bizet, who died at the age of thirty six, only a few weeks after finishing his controversial work, the tremendous success of which he was ever to know. By presenting it here in a brand-new version with instruments of the period, in an endeavour to rekindle the original musical and theatrical flame, Sir John Eliot Gardiner and Adrian Noble have reconstructed the unusual movement of the Read more chorus and difficult dialogue between characters as a human, carnal tragedy.

The Monteverdi Choir
Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique
Sir John Eliot Gardiner
The Monteverdi Choir
Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique
Sir John Eliot Gardiner, conductor
Adrian Nobel, director
Anna Caterina Antonacci, Carmen
Andrew Richards, Don José
Anne-Catherine Gillet, Micaëla

All Zones; 191 minutes including bonus material


Here is Carmen, at the Opéra-Comique, its original home, played on instruments of its time, led by John Eliot Gardiner. Appealing? Well, curious-making at least. So pleased with themselves were the participants that it was broadcast live to 50 theaters in France and Switzerland and recorded for this DVD release.

The results are quite good, in fact. That it is being played in a small theater and therefore can be treated with intimacy rather than too much swagger or volume is important to those who were present; at home, with one's TV and close-ups, intimacy reigns supreme anyway. But there is no doubt that orchestral textures are clear and clean and that there are fewer moments of brain-breaking, crashing cymbals. The edition used contains plenty of spoken dialog and some music I've never heard before: a dark bit of orchestral commentary during the card scene, some extra music in Act 1 when the soldiers are observing a loving couple. I did not feel anything revolutionary, but greatly appreciated the entire reading.

Gardiner's tempos are quick and the action moves forward well under Adrian Noble's direction. Noble gives each of the supernumeraries a real life; they react and move like individuals. It's a joy to see and hear a cliché-free Carmen--but then again, the Met's and Covent Garden's videos avoid much of the hip-swinging and leering as well. The unit set easily changes from street to Lillas Pastia's to mountain to outside bull ring with just a few adjustments--and benefit of the imagination; the settings never overwhelm the singers and/or music. (Mark Thompson is responsible for sets and costumes.)

Soprano Anna Caterina Antonacci's Carmen already is familiar from the terrific Covent Garden production, and indeed she is ideal in the role once again. Here she is no less sexy, but she seems more self-contained; a glance is all she needs to offer José in order for him to fall for her. But she can be nice and trampy when called for, and she seems to act that way just to irritate others. Antonacci is in marginally better voice at Covent Garden, but there's no doubt that the role fits her like a glove: she appears to be a cross between a mezzo and a soprano.

Her Don José is American tenor Andrew Richards, who makes the character utterly human: his transformation from a nice country boy in Act 1 (although a bit of extra dialog explains that he has already killed a man, albeit to defend honor or something) to a raving loony in Act 4 progresses as it should--organically, from the situations he's faced with. The voice is not memorable--he lacks star quality--but he's a fine José. (We also learn José's last name--it's something like Lizzarabengoa, which could explain his outsider status.) Nicolas Cavallier's Escamillo is well sung throughout but lacks sex appeal. Anne-Catherine Gillet's Micaela is sincere and particularly lovely in the first act; her third act catches the occasional intrusive vibrato. The remainder of the cast, most of whom are home-grown French, is excellent, and their enunciation is glorious.

Picture and sound, as well as direction for the small screen, could not be better, and subtitles are in all major European languages. A 20-minute interview with Gardiner, Jerome Deschamps (the Comique's director), and Agnès Terrier (the dramaturg) is an interesting bonus. This is a fine performance: If the Covent Garden and Met performances didn't exist, this would be a real contender. As it stands, its transparency and fine presentation are enough to recommend it as a second choice.

--Robert Levine, ClassicsToday.com
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Works on This Recording

Carmen by Georges Bizet
Performer:  Anna Caterina Antonacci (Soprano), Nicolas Cavallier (Bass), Anne-Catherine Gillet (Soprano),
Andrew Richards (Tenor), Francis Dudziak (Baritone), Vincent Ordonneau (Tenor),
Annie Gill (Alto)
Conductor:  John Eliot Gardiner
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Monteverdi Choir,  Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique,  Maitrise des Hauts-de-Seine
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1873-1874; France 

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