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Bizet: Carmen / Ozawa, Norman, Freni, Schicoff, Estes

Release Date: 08/07/1989 
Label:  Philips   Catalog #: 422366   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Georges Bizet
Performer:  Mirella FreniNeil ShicoffFrançois Le RouxGérard Garino,   ... 
Conductor:  Seiji Ozawa
Orchestra/Ensemble:  ORTF National OrchestraFrench National Radio Chorus
Number of Discs: 3 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 2 Hours 39 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

With intelligence, involvement and musicality, Jessye Norman creates a portrayal as individual in utterance as either Callas or de los Angeles.

[T]his recording confirms the work as an outright masterpiece. Its strength lies in having a French orchestra and chorus, French singers in subsidiary roles, an edition that employs dialogue and, with one exception, makes a sensible choice from the Oeser revisions, and has Erik Smith as producer. There is no substitute for the sound of French artists singing and speaking their own language, few substitutes for French players tackling their country's music. Their conductor isn't French, but Ozawa, by and large, shows a fine feeling for the niceties of Bizet's scoring and rhythms.
Read more Erik Smith, as ever, places the singers in the forefront, avoiding the curse of recessed sound, and yet suggests the ambience of a real occasion.

So the frame is right for Jessye Norman's muchheralded Carmen. How does she fill it? With predictable intelligence, involvement and musicality. To start with, her French is idiomatic. She may be a shade too emphatic in some of the dialogue in an effort to create a 'character', but create one she does—mostly by dint of her singing. The "Habanera" is as smoky and alluring as Leontyne Price's on the Karajan/RCA set, the "Seguidille" suitably seductive. In both she lightens her tone effectively without damaging its quality. The "Chanson bohémiénne" has suitable fire, the duet with Jose a nice mixture of eroticism combined with irony— the repeat of José's phrase early on, one of the Oeser additions first heard on the Solti set, helps her here...

I like the sensual vibrato she brings to "Ah! je t'aime", and in the mortal encounter with José, Norman's Carmen rightly assumes tragic proportions, even if the style is again a shade grand for this piece. All in all it is a convincing well-thoughtthrough portrayal. If Norman isn't a 'natural' for the part as are, in their different ways, Berganza for Abbado (DG), Migenes for Maazel (Erato/RCA) and Troyanos for Solti (Decca), she is in her very different way as interesting as los Angeles (Beecham/EMI) and Callas (Prêtre—also EMI), and quite as individual in utterance as either.

-- Gramophone [8/1989]
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Works on This Recording

Carmen by Georges Bizet
Performer:  Mirella Freni (Soprano), Neil Shicoff (Tenor), François Le Roux (Baritone),
Gérard Garino (Tenor), Jessye Norman (Soprano), Jean Rigby (Mezzo Soprano),
Ghislaine Raphanel (Soprano), Jean-Phillipe Courtis (Bass), Simon Estes (Bass),
Nicolas Rivenq (Baritone)
Conductor:  Seiji Ozawa
Orchestra/Ensemble:  ORTF National Orchestra,  French National Radio Chorus
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1873-1874; France 
Language: French 

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