Irreverent | La Crosse, Wisconsin, USA | 11/24/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I love to see people obviously relishing what they do, so it was a delight to watch Levine conducting and Baltsa singing this wonderful music. This supreme opera, however, also brings regret that Bizet's life was so brief and his marvelous works were so few. Bizet perhaps envisioned a 20-something Carmen, but I bet that Baltsa, 45-ish at the time of this performance, would have seduced him just as she did me and Carreras's hapless Don Jose'. Of course, Baltsa and Levine have the best parts, but that also means they carry major responsibility. A video production needs more than just their great singing and musicianship, and those extras are not lacking. The costumes do a lot for Baltsa, and Baltsa does a lot for the costumes. It's not just the provocative display of cleavage, either (and Baltsa knows how to use every jiggle to get her way), but the sheer force of a powerful female personality that integrates with voice and sex to dominate the stage, as Carmen must. Carreras is a little TOO overwhelmed, and I would have preferred one of the other two tenors, probably Domingo (Luciano, you're just too fat for this role!). However, Carreras does pretty well, given that he plays a man powerless to escape the femaelstrom that is Carmen. Mitchell and especially Ramey are excellent, given that all roles revolve around Carmen. At least Ramey gets to sing about being a toreador, and he takes every advantage of the opportunity to shine. All the while, Levine and his fine orchestra make me rejoice that I plugged the DVD player's audio cables into my stereo. It costs NOTHING to do this, folks, and it isn't difficult, either -- why pop for $400 for a "home theatre" kit? No stereo? Forty bucks or so will get you a subwoofer and two good speakers to plug into your TV's (or laptop's!) earphone jack.I disagree with reviewers who liked the video quality. In many parts of this production, the dark picture areas have lots of light-colored noise about every dozen frames or so, with less pronounced noisy frames in between, producing a flicker about two or three times every second. I find this annoying and distracting. Something similar happens when I am not careful how I scan a dark 35mm slide with my film scanner, but I know how to deal with it. The Deutsche Grammophon Gesellschaft certainly also knows how to deal with it, so why didn't they? Sehr schlampig, meine Herrn! It's also not all that hard to write a program to help eliminate pixels that misbehave (see, DG, some opera freaks are computer freaks, too). The extras, as on all DG oper(ett)a DVD's are pretty limited. The choices for menu languages are limited to English and . . . (are you ready for this?) . . . (Are you sure?) . . . CHINESE! Wer zum Teufel hat sich denn DAS ausgedacht?!The artistic aspects, happily, still make this a great DVD. I have not seen the Domingo / Migenes production, and it may be even better, but you'll probably like this one quite a bit."
A Credible Carmen
mackiemesser | Morehead, KY United States | 11/05/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I am prompted to write this review to correct what I perceive as a misleading previous review. This is a sumptuous production from the Met. The special strong points of the production, as I see it are the usual excellent Met orchestra, sets and acting, the excellent childrens' chorus, the quality of the secondary characters Micaela (Leona Mitchell) and Escamillo (Samuel Ramey), AND the quality of the singers Carmen (Agnes Baltsa) and Don Jose (Jose Carreras). I found the singing of Don Jose relatively accurate but, more important, the style of singing and the acting seem almost perfect. Carmen is also extremely well played. The singing is quite accurate and the amount of energy and management of the mix of low and upper registers is quite impressive. I have almost no reservations about this excellent production."
Opera at its best
firstname.lastname@example.org | Australia | 06/10/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This outstanding work is given no better a performance than here from the principles and the fine Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Chorus. The role of Carmen is sung with a fiery passion by the very powerful mezzo of Agnes Baltsa. Her interaction with Carreras is emotionally powerful as well as musically satisfying. Special mention must be given to the wonderful interpretation of the role of Don Jose by Carreras- the best interpretation available in audio today( note the brilliant recording with Karajan). He is vocally poweful in the finale of Act three as well as exquisite in the Flower Song with a soaring B-flat sung pianissimo. He totally identifies with the character( as in all his roles really). James Levine and the Orchestra provide impressive accompaniment, providing a pillow for the principles(Levine's interpretation is less rigid than Maazel but not as creative as Karajan). Regardless of this , the performance is indicative of what a night at the opera should be."
Carreras and Baltsa are stealing the show
PhantomOfTheOpera | Norway | 09/16/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"At first I have to say that a lot of operas often happen to have a wonderful tenor and a really bad soprano or vice versa. This is absolutely not the case here. Both mezzo soprano Agnes Baltsa and tenor José Carreras are doing a brilliant job with both their singing and acting. I think they both have a stage presence that very few can beat. Agnes Baltsa possesses a crystal clear voice, but she can also belt if that's what it takes to make the final outcome more believable. José Carreras' voice contains so much beauty; it's full of emotions, sensual and with that irresistible hint of honey. Like Baltsa he can also sacrifize beauty to enhance his performance.
Agnes Baltsa is just so sensual as Carmen it's no wonder Don José is powerless against her. I love the scene in first act where they spot each other for the first time and Don José is trying his best not to show any interest in Carmen who is surrounded by a crowd of eager men, but still we see him watching her out of the corner of his eye and Carmen is putting on a display trying to attract his attention. The way she's taking the rose from down her cleavage and throwing it on Don José is most seductive. And he's obviously overwhelmed by this woman so full of sex-appeal. The sweet and innocent Michaela doesn't stand a chance compared to the wild and seductive Carmen. Baltsa's singing is beautiful; it's filled with her usual energy and involvement and I just love her version of "pres de ramparts de Seville". And in "non, tu ne m'aime pas" she's so persuasive that it's no wonder José almost is giving in to her pleas about him leaving the army. She is undoubtedly my favourite Carmen.
José Carreras is perfect as Don José. Some reviewers have claimed that his acting is a bit wooden, but I disagree. He's playing a naïve and shy, young man falling in love for the first time and by the way, he's also a soldier and they hardly go dancing all around the place. Like always Carreras is pouring his heart and soul into his singing. Even if this performance was very close to his leukaemia treatment I think he sounds wonderful. Just listen to the "flower aria" that's sung with such emotion and ends up like a gentle love song. (And I would have sacrificed a lot to be Carmen, having Don José Carreras looking at me the way he did that moment...) He's also outstanding in the final act where Don José ends up killing Carmen. They both are, actually. Don José is at first trying his best to persuade her into coming back to him, because he's still in love with her. And his rage at the end is very understandable, because I think we all can identify with him when he realizes that he has ruined his life because of her and in the end she refuses him. His cry (Ma Carmen, adorée) after having killed Carmen makes my hair stand on end. It comes from the very deepest of his soul. During curtain call you will see Carreras completely drained of emotion. And I feel almost the same after having watched this version of Carmen. The final 10-15 minutes of this opera are worth the price of the dvd alone.
Leona Mitchell is a very sweet, but slightly nervous Michaela. Escamillo is portrayed by a brash Samuel Ramey. He has a rich, dark voice and his singing is very good. But even so, if I was Carmen I would stick to Don José. The rest of the supporting cast are excellent and they all make this version of Carmen very enjoyable. If you like me, happen to like Baltsa and Carreras I wouldn't hesitate buying the dvd."
Carreras shines in "Carmen"
Charity | Oklahoma | 03/14/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"If you are relatively new to opera as I am, Baltsa's performance of Carmen may have to grow on you - as it did on me - but you'll have no trouble admiring and appreciating Carreras' Don Jose character right away. (The role is one of his specialties.) Back to Baltsa: You'll have to get over her physical apperance -Carmen is supposed to be 17!- as a temptress and then you will enjoy her portrayal. Magnificent voice! Samuel Ramey is dripping with confidence as Escamillo, the bullfighter, and his voice is really nice. Leona Mitchell's voice is less than perfect in this live performance, but it is a voice I would be greatful to own. She is a sweet Micaela, (The girl who loves Don Jose) and is rather convincing in her big aria in act 3. There is a wonderful supporting cast, although some of the older women in the Met chorus will gross you out in their 'cigarette-girl' costumes in Act 1! And now what the Carreras fans are waiting for: How was Carreras in this performance? It would take an entire book of positive adjectives to describe his stellar, passionate performance. Here you will find a great artist -in real life on the brink of being diagnosed with leukemia- singing his heart and soul out with fire, urgency, and love. He puts everything into this role and the audience -you & I- are richly rewarded! Conclusion: Don't miss this one!!!"