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Bizet: Carmen - Highlights / Ozawa, Norman, Freni, Shicoff


Release Date: 08/07/1989 
Label:  Philips   Catalog #: 426040   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Georges Bizet
Performer:  Jessye NormanNeil ShicoffJean RigbyGhislaine Raphanel,   ... 
Conductor:  Seiji Ozawa
Orchestra/Ensemble:  ORTF National OrchestraFrench National Radio Chorus
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 0 Mins. 

CD not available: This title is currently only available as an MP3 download.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews

Whatever reservations I may have about the performances of some of the principals, this 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. Erik Smith, as ever, places the singers in the forefront, avoiding the curse of Read more recessed sound, and yet suggests the ambience of a real occasion.

So the frame is right for Jessye Norman's much-heralded 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. With the card scene, we return to the heavier, more portentous Norman style--I'm not sure that the piece should be quite so Wagnerian as this—and the tempo, as that for the "Habanera", is just a touch too slow.

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 EM!), and quite as individual in utterance as either. ...

As I have suggested, all the small roles are well taken by French singers, each of whom has a good voice and characterizes subtly, especially Le Roux as Dancairo, and even the speaking roles offer individuality of utterance. The chorus lend distinction to the performance—the women really get round the text of the cigarette girls' quarrel, which Ozawa takes at quite a pace. That is in contrast with some plodding tempos. The Micaëla/ José duet sounds rather foursquare at Ozawa's rigid pace, and the close of Act 3 wants the frisson of excitement suggested by José's entry into a new life, but Ozawa's care for detail and his control of the outdoors scenes are always admirable. I'm glad he adopts the longer version of the duel music, and the additional bars in the Act 3 finale. Indeed, although the dialogue is different, he very much follows the version used by Solti on the still-admirable Decca set.

My preference for the varying pleasures of the Maazel, Abbado and Beecham sets remains, but I have nevertheless enjoyed Norman's highly individual portrayal and the French aspects of this new one.

-- Gramophone [8/1989], reviewing the original complete recording
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Works on This Recording

1.
Carmen: Act 1 Prelude "Les toréadors" by Georges Bizet
Conductor:  Seiji Ozawa
Orchestra/Ensemble:  ORTF National Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1873-1874; France 
2.
Carmen: L'amour est un oiseau rebelle "Habañera" by Georges Bizet
Performer:  Jessye Norman (Soprano)
Conductor:  Seiji Ozawa
Orchestra/Ensemble:  ORTF National Orchestra,  French National Radio Chorus
Written: 1873-1874 
Language: French 
Notes: This selection begins with "Mais nous ne voyons pas la Carmencita..."
Composition written: France (1873 - 1874). 
3.
Carmen: Près des ramparts de Seville "Seguidilla" by Georges Bizet
Performer:  Jessye Norman (Soprano), Neil Shicoff (Tenor)
Conductor:  Seiji Ozawa
Orchestra/Ensemble:  ORTF National Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1873-1874; France 
Language: French 
Notes: Composition written: France (1873 - 1874). 
4.
Carmen: Les tringles des sistres tintaient "Gypsy Song" by Georges Bizet
Performer:  Jean Rigby (Alto), Ghislaine Raphanel (Soprano), Jessye Norman (Soprano)
Conductor:  Seiji Ozawa
Orchestra/Ensemble:  ORTF National Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: France 
Language: French 
Notes: Composition written: France (1873 - 1874). 
5.
Carmen: Votre toast je peu vous le rendre "Toreador Song" by Georges Bizet
Performer:  Ghislaine Raphanel (Soprano), Jean Rigby (Alto), Jessye Norman (Soprano),
Simon Estes (Bass)
Conductor:  Seiji Ozawa
Orchestra/Ensemble:  ORTF National Orchestra,  French National Radio Chorus
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1873-1874; France 
Language: French 
Notes: Composition written: France (1873 - 1874). 
6.
Carmen: Nous avons en tête une affaire by Georges Bizet
Performer:  Ghislaine Raphanel (Soprano), Gérard Garino (Tenor), Robert Leroux (Baritone),
Jessye Norman (Soprano), Jean Rigby (Alto)
Conductor:  Seiji Ozawa
Orchestra/Ensemble:  ORTF National Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1873-1874; France 
Language: French 
7.
Carmen: La fleur que tu m'avais jetée "Flower song" by Georges Bizet
Performer:  Neil Shicoff (Tenor)
Conductor:  Seiji Ozawa
Orchestra/Ensemble:  ORTF National Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1873-1874; France 
Language: French 
Notes: Composition written: France (1873 - 1874). 
8.
Carmen: Non, tu ne m'aimes pas by Georges Bizet
Performer:  Jessye Norman (Soprano), Neil Shicoff (Tenor)
Conductor:  Seiji Ozawa
Orchestra/Ensemble:  ORTF National Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1875; France 
Language: French 
9.
Carmen: Mêlons! Coupons! [Card Scene] by Georges Bizet
Performer:  Ghislaine Raphanel (Soprano), Jessye Norman (Soprano), Jean Rigby (Alto)
Conductor:  Seiji Ozawa
Orchestra/Ensemble:  ORTF National Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1873-1874; France 
Language: French 
Notes: Composition written: France (1873 - 1874). 
10.
Carmen: Je dis que rien ne m'épouvante "Micaëla's Aria" by Georges Bizet
Performer:  Mirella Freni (Soprano)
Conductor:  Seiji Ozawa
Orchestra/Ensemble:  ORTF National Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1873-1874; France 
Language: French 
11.
Carmen: C'est toi! C'est moi!...Carmen, il est temps encore by Georges Bizet
Performer:  Jessye Norman (Soprano), Neil Shicoff (Tenor)
Conductor:  Seiji Ozawa
Orchestra/Ensemble:  ORTF National Orchestra,  French National Radio Chorus
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1873-1874; France 
Language: French 

Sound Samples

Carmen: Overture (Prelude)
Carmen / Act 1: "Mais nous ne voyons pas la Carmencita" - "L'amour est un oiseau rebelle"
Carmen / Act 1: "Près des remparts de Séville...Tais-toi"
Carmen / Act 2: "Les tringles des sistres tintaient"
Carmen / Act 2: "Votre toast, je peux vous le rendre" - "Toréador, en garde"
Carmen / Act 2: "Nous avons en tête une affaire!"
Carmen / Act 2: "La fleur que tu m'avais jetée"
Carmen / Act 2: "Non, tu ne m'aimes pas!"
Carmen / Act 3: "Mêlons! Coupons!" - "En vain, pour éviter les répon- ses amères"
Carmen / Act 3: "Je dis que rien ne m'épouvante"
Carmen / Act 3: "C'est toi!" "C'est-moi!"

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