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Bizet - Carmen
Bizet - Carmen
Actors: Grace Bumbry, Jon Vickers, Justino Díaz, Mirella Freni, Olivera Miljakovic
Director: Herbert von Karajan
Genres: Drama, Music Video & Concerts, Musicals & Performing Arts
NR     2005     2hr 44min

Bizet's tale of the fiery gypsy and her naive, ultimately murderous lover, is an operatic staple but few versions boast such well-acted, brilliantly sung leading roles. Grace Bumbry's Carmen is a beautiful, witty temptress...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Grace Bumbry, Jon Vickers, Justino Díaz, Mirella Freni, Olivera Miljakovic
Director: Herbert von Karajan
Genres: Drama, Music Video & Concerts, Musicals & Performing Arts
Sub-Genres: Drama, DTS, Classical
Studio: Deutsche Grammophon
Format: DVD - Color - Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 06/14/2005
Theatrical Release Date: 00/00/1967
Release Year: 2005
Run Time: 2hr 44min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 2
Edition: Classical
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: French, English, German, Spanish, Mandarin Chinese
Subtitles: English, Spanish, German, French

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Movie Reviews

Wonderful music but problems abound
GaryTucson | Utah | 01/30/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)

"Like other opera lovers, I had hesitated adding Carmen to my collection and after much thought, decided on this version without reading any reviews, having heard of its fame as the first to be put to DVD.

First, the music is wonderful. Karajan's orchestra is flawless and the sets are nicely done. The singing, by all the leads, is superior and the acting very, very good (except by Diaz). However, all this good stuff was undone by the poor translation from what must have been 8 or 16mm to DVD. Whoever mastered this should be shot. Either the lip-syncing was off from the start or the remastering put the audio track so far out of whack from the video that I was distracted from beginning to end with tracking that didn't sync and constant video popping that was clearly an attempt to bring audio and video back together. One minute the audio track was 10-30ms behind the video, then in sync with a jump of the video, then magically back out of sync. I completely disagree with the reviewer who said the lip-syncing was well-done. It was horrible and made an otherwise incredible production almost unwatchable. I loved the quality of the music and finally closed my eyes through much of the 2 hours just so I could enjoy it. I also finally turned on the English subtitles and read them instead of watching the great acting, marred horribly by words and music not in time with the mouth movements.

I honestly wish I could have gotten past this 'out-of-sync' disaster. The quality of music is well-worth the purchase, but anyone who has ever watched a good movie that seemed like an cheap, English-dubbed Japanese film because the tracking was so far off will find the same unavoidable distraction I did in this otherwise wonderful production. Consider this fair warning."
Indiana Opera Buff | Fort Wayne, IN United States | 06/11/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I have heard Carmen sung by many mezzos (and sopranos), but I've never heard it sung as well as Grace Bumbry did in this movie. The singing is as close to flawless as I've ever heard. Bumbry surely must have thinned down for this part because her waistline is wasplike. She looks fabulous and struts about in several wonderful outfits.
Jon Vickers is not one of my favorite singers, but he looked and acted the part well and, amazingly, sang it well too. He sang the Flower Song almost entirely mezza voce, with a gorgeous pianissimo ending.
Justino Diaz was the youngest Escamillo I've ever seen, very realistic, and he did a fine job.
Mirella Frena was a beautiful Micaela, and how beautifully she sang!
Except for what is usually the mountain scene, the scenery was all very realistic and more than adequate. The costumes were colorful and delightful. One of the other reviewers complained about the polka dots--they did not bother me at all. And the cinematography was better than you would have expected for 1967.
Von Karajan did his usual magnificent job with the orchestra. He took some of the song tempos quite slowly, milking out the sensuality. I loved it!
I watched this with a friend, and we both agreed that, vocally at least, it surpassed the CARMEN with Placido Domingo and Julia Migenes Johnson. Anyone who is a fan of great singing would be making a serious mistake by passing up this treasure...."
The greatest Don Jose
Michael Berger | Atlanta, Ga | 05/06/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This is one of the three Great Carmens on DVD, this, Ewing with Mehta, and Von Otter. It has the best conductor, Von Karajan, and the best Jose, Jon Vickers, and a Michaela, Freni, as good as any.

Central to Carmen is how the main character and Jose are depicted. They must be vivid, especially Carmen, complex and powerful. Overall Vickers is the best Don Jose on DVD or CD. He is slightly outacted by Louis Lima on the Ewing/Mehta set -Lima has the advantage of looking Spanish; Lima's face is more mobile and his reactions more varied; Vickers every once a while looks and acts sort of blank. Vickers does have the advantage of his magnificant, burly body: he is a visible force. And he deserves credit for this, for he is continually a force while Marcus Haddock, in the Von Otter, with a similar build is not. Vickers outsings everyone in this part: he pays more attention to dynamics (ending the Flower Song, for example, with its written pianissmo conclusion); has the grace to sing softly often, has the skill to sing softly but with great intensity, and has more power than anyone else in the role. Against him, Domingo seems a good voiced kid, a novice, who doesnt get much of the part.

It is a compliment to Grace Bumbry's Carmen that Vickers, in all his variety and power, does not blow her off the screen. She sings very well, phrasing subtly but having the power needed at climaxes. She is not as absolutely fascinating and charismatic to watch as either Ewing or Von Otter, but her characterization is lovely in its variety.She is the most charming of the three Carmens. She just isn't quite the force of nature that the other two women are. You can wish you never had met Von Otter, but you wouldn't forget it; you would have to be dead to forget is possible you could forget Bumbry.

Freni is wonderful; all you can fault her for is her attractiveness which makes her Micaela too obviously attractive to Jose; the sisterly/good person part of the character is overshadowed by her attractiveness. She sings exquisitely and with the help of Karajan's conducting, does a splendid job with her aria.

Diaz, as Escamillo, is fine; he isnt as quite as delicate with the music as Nauori (in the Von Otter) but has a more powerful voice. He sings and acts well.

It is a cliche, though a relevant one here, to praise Von Karajan's conducting, the best on DVD. He gets the combination of delicacy, beauty, power, and force that is in the music more totally than anyone else. (Yes, Kleiber's conducting is fascinating in its clarity and intensity but it lacks variety, delicacy and often beauty.) I wish also to praise his stage direction for which he was often criticized. Here, he tells the essentials of the story clearly, depicts the central relationships well and movingly, and never gets in the music's way.

All told, a wonderful production. The sound is somewhat thin and I have nostalgia for the great what might have been of a production conducted by Von Karajan with Vickers and Ewing. But this is a lovely job that does justice to the work.