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Bizet: Carmen / Karajan, Price, Corelli, Merrill, Freni

Release Date: 08/11/1998 
Label:  Rca Victor Red Seal Catalog #: 39495   Spars Code: ADD 
Composer:  Georges Bizet
Performer:  Leontyne PriceFranco CorelliRobert MerrillMirella Freni,   ... 
Conductor:  Herbert von Karajan
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna State Opera ChorusVienna Philharmonic OrchestraVienna Boys' Choir
Number of Discs: 3 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 2 Hours 41 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

If you like and want Carmen as the grandest of grand operas this is the set for you without question.

If you like and want Carmen as the grandest of grand operas this is the set for you without question. Even if you don't, you may find it hard to resist the combined assets of Price's smoky, sensual Carmen, Corelli's virile, exciting Jose, Freni's marvellously sung Micaela, Karajan's precisely, sensuously, leisurely yet vital conducting (so much more admirable than on his recent DG version) and, almost most commendable of all, the spacious, natural Culshaw recording.

John Steane in The Grand Tradition (London: 1974), states that Carmen is Price's most important contribution to the gramophone, giving chapter
Read more and verse for his view, and I am inclined to agree; it is certainly far superior to her second Aida (reviewed in August). Less genteel than los Angeles (Beecham), less tigerish than Callas (Pretre), more earthy than Berganza (Abbado), less blatant than Migenes (Maazel), Price's Carmen positively insinuates herself into your listening room, a very real and alluring presence, even if just occasionally she just overdoes the ero ticism. As singing, her account of the role marvellously contrasts the light, airy, seductive Carmen of the earlier acts with the fatalistic woman of the last two. Corelli, though his French is distracting (that coach, mentioned amusingly in Culshaw's memoirs, seems to have been employed in vain), gives us one of the most exciting Joses on disc, quite frightening in his agony and frustration in the last two acts, and not without signs of subtlety in the duets with Micaela and Carmen earlier. The heroic, tragic quality in his singing makes one forgiye his occasional liberties over note values. In the finale, Price and Corelli evince an extraordinary animal passion, overwhelming in its intensity. Freni's French can be worrying and she enunciates vaguely, but she sings her aria with a strength and beauty seldom equalled. Merrill is a strong but not very individual Escamillo. The smaller parts are well taken. Of course, we have Guiraud recitatives here, not dialogue.

The playing of the VPO is as excellent as that on any set I know of this work—listen to the sensuous quality of the postlude to Micaela's aria. Karajan, even in 1964, leaned towards slowish, slightly stately tempos, but I didn't feel the stiffening of the arteries of the later set. As I've already suggested, the recording is irreproachable, and It comes up with even more immediacy now on CD. This set must have an equal recommendation with the Abbado (DG), Maazel (Erato/RCA) and Beecham (EMI), all of which present different and valid views of the work.

-- Gramophone [10/1988]


Very grand... Price is a highly dramatic Carmen, Mirella Freni contributes a most sensitively sung Micaëla, and Corelli sounds glorious...

-- BBC Music Magazine


Karajan's RCA version, made in Vienna in 1964, owes much to Leontyne Price's seductive, smoky-toned Carmen... Robert Merrill sings with gloriously firm tone, while Mirella Freni is enchanting as Micaëla.

-- The Penguin Guide to Compact Discs & DVDs [2003/4 edition]
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Works on This Recording

Carmen by Georges Bizet
Performer:  Leontyne Price (Soprano), Franco Corelli (Tenor), Robert Merrill (Baritone),
Mirella Freni (Soprano), Monique Linval (Soprano), Genevičve Macaux (Mezzo Soprano),
Jean-Christophe Benoit (Baritone), Maurice Besançon (Tenor), Frank Schooten (Bass),
Bernard Demigny (Baritone)
Conductor:  Herbert von Karajan
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna State Opera Chorus,  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra,  Vienna Boys' Choir
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1873-1874; France 
Date of Recording: 1963 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 Outstanding Carman February 7, 2014 By Harold K. (Camberwell, Victoria) See All My Reviews "This performance recorded in 1964 is of exceptional quality in all regards. Artists, orchestra and choristers shine under the baton of Von Karajan. Stereo separation is excellent." Report Abuse
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