Carmen is one of the few indisputable masterpieces of its time to be composed for a small theater and Glyndebourne provides a heaven-sent backdrop for this sizzling Peter Hall production. "Bizet's score sounds miraculous ... more »in this theatre. " FINANCIAL TIMES. The accent is on stark realism and dramatic intensity. An electrically vivid Carmen is portrayed by Maria Ewing ".a rare combination of gifted singer and outstanding actress" SUNDAY TELEGRAPH. Bizet's famous Spanish gypsy is matched with the sentimental Don Josť of Barry McCauley ".an American tenor of real promise.a thrilling Don Josť" OBSERVER. Bizet's famous score includes such favorites as the Habanera, The Flower Song, The Toreador's Song and perhaps the most famous overture of all opera. "The London Philharmonic under Bernard Haitink is honouring every treasurable detail of Bizet's enchanting score" INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE.« less
The Best... Get it even if you are "not interested in opera"
Karl May | Golden, CO United States | 12/03/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is not a "music professional's review". Carmen is theater, Carmen is about human nature, about jealousy, about life. Perhaps the most popular opera ever. It can be presented and performed in many different ways. This performance, this presentation is the best. Not just as an opera, but perhaps one of the best performances in the recorded performing arts.
One does not have to be an opera-lover to enjoy this Carmen. It is like the first Star Wars movie - an instant classic - with one difference. This one has one superb actress in it - Maria Ewing. She is Carmen from the first appearance to the end. Of course, she can sing, but what really counts is that she can act. She is perfect for the role. To be clear about this: I am not just praising Carmen, Bizet's opera. It can be performed badly, or questionably - just three weeks ago (November 2005) I saw a performance in Denver that was mediocre at best - mostly because of the somewhat weird ideas in directing, trying to be original... But this Carmen is unique: it has everything.
Is this something your children can see? Yes. My daughters, thankfully, have seen over and over this one (in the VHS tape edition) since they were about five.
I probably never recommended anything as a "you should buy this one", but this is it. It is very good news that finally this performance is available on DVD. Even if you never saw an opera, or never want to see one, get this DVD, and you will be glad you got it."
Searing, blazing Carmen
Robert Baksa | new york state | 05/20/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"There are marginally better sung Carmens than this production but this performance features all the music Bizet wrote without the added recitatives by another hand. The result is that the motivation of the characters is made clearer and the plotline strengthened. This production was not filmed before an audience but the action is nonetheless limited to a small stage area...a great plus in my estimation. I do not enjoy operas that are "opened up" and later dubbed, no matter how skillfully accomplished. Operas are designed to be sung on a stage to an audience, not in the great outdoors. It is a particular form the limits of which should be respected. The acting in this performance is supurb in every role. I have seen several Carmens in my time but none has struck me as being as effective as this one. I have not seen Ewing's later performance but all things considered, I would not hesitate recommending this version to anyone."
Carmen wants to die
Viewer | 04/23/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The interpretation is unique. Other singers portray Carmen as a joyful little creature, like a flower, and the dramatic climax reaches when Jose kills that flower who is so in love with life. Here Maria Ewing puts on the alternative - her Carmen is depressive. It seems that from the beginning she is in search for the one who will finally kill her, hence replacing the tragedy of her death by the tragedy of Jose who killed her.
Her singing is also unconventional. Her voice is of moderate size (which is appropriate), and gets stronger in the top - the opposite of most mezzo-soprano Carmens. She actually resembles a soprano. She transposed some notes in the second act an octave higher to reach first the high B natural and then the high C at the act's end. She makes use of her more than usual high voice (for a Carmen) and sings the middle A flat (first A above the middle C) which apears near the end of her passage in the famous cards-trio with her chest voice. All can I say about her performance is "BRAVO"!!! She, the stage-directing, the colorful orchestral playing and the supportive choir are enough to rate this DVD five stars.
The other main roles aren't so terrific though: McCauley and McLaughlin acts very well, but lack the convenience in the high register so important for their parts. Instead, they sound strained and uneasy. Great Don Jose and Micaela are to be found in Domingo and Esham in Rosi's film.
Holloway is really bad, both vocally and visually. His bottom is weak and his low B flat fades in his great entrance-aria. Raimondi in Rosi's film is far superior.
Nevertheless, Carmen is the dominant figure, and for her it's definitely worth the cost."
J. Anderson | Monterey, CA USA | 02/03/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"As unpredictable (and occasionally unsettling) as Maria Ewing has proven to be as a singing actor, her performance as Carmen in this film is unassailable. She owns every inch of it, and from her stunning committment the whole piece blazes like a fire. The results can be unsatisfying when Ewing takes on a role (her Salome comes to mind), but, as a voice teacher and coach, I've yet to find a performance of hers that fails to completely exemplify an unyielding prescription: I tell my students - singing is an act of daring and committment in which you must literally be willing to die. It's that simple - and that profound. Ewing grabs hold of her art in the way Callas did. Like Callas, she has suffered in the voice department - willingly and knowingly, I suspect. Her Carmen misses no opportunity to rebel, to ignite, but Ewing is an actor of magnitude and knows the boundaries; pushes against them, but never at the cost of making real art. She's manifestly a singer of intelligence, breathtaking risk and seduction, always. This particular Carmen strikes me as her finest performance committed to film. I like this version filmed without an audience because it doesnt attempt to become an 'outdoor' film. Bizet's original ideas are thereby showcased to magnificent advantage, musically and dramatically. Kudos to this one-of-a-kind artist for an incomparable Carmen here; it's a take no prisoners performance. McCauley's thick and unwieldy tenor fails to impress, whatever the macho/puppydog presence may provide. An able actor, his singing is generic, if reliable. I've enjoyed Marie McLaughlin at Glyndebourne, and her turn as Micaela is satisfactory, a bit wary - better than tenor McCauley - but I could name a number of memorable Micaelas without mentioning her. Maria Ewing is firepit, kindling, logs, match, and blazing glory from beginning to end in this film, and she alone makes it worth double the price here! On her bewitching account alone, hotly recommended!"
THIS is Carmen!!!
Samuel Lee | Atlanta, Ga. USA | 12/30/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Peter Hall's 1985 Glyndebourne production is absolutely amazing. It is ABSOLUTELY true to the libretto. VERY believable. The staging, chracterizations, acting, sets, costumes, etc. all serve the ART of the story and music. I have seen Carmen many times in my life. This is BY FAR the best I have seen. It is CONVINCING because it is what Bizet (and Meilhac, and Halevy) derived from Merimee.
Before seeing this production, somehow I felt the opera to be filled with much good music, but with characterization less than clearly defined. With the spoken dialogue, all characters are now belivable in every way. I feel that the experience of the drama is now complete. Seeing this performance makes me realize what a true MASTERPIECE Carmen is.
The day-to-day life of Seville is SO convincing in Act 1. The children's chorus has never been more effective. The sets, and especially the costumes are WONDERFUL throughout.
All principal voices are incredible. The highlights for me are the powerful and resonant tone of tenor Barry McCauley and the delicate pianissimos of Marie McLaughlin. Amazingly sensitive singing.
Maria Ewing IS Carmen. She's got the look, the voice, and her acting is always what it should be.
In a way the ultimate moment in any performance of Carmen is the loss of sanity of Don Jose in the final scene. It has never been more powerful than in this performance. Barry McCauley has the look and passion of an insanely jealous lover. YOU HAVE TO SEE IT !!!
The smaller roles were also very well performed. I particularly enjoyed the performance of Malcolm Walker as Morales. The chorus was also very effective, and exceptional in terms of acting and giving the overall effect of realism.
Too often, in fact usually, the acting and characterization in performances of Carmen seem contrived and caricatured. NOT HERE. The current world of opera DESPERATELY needs directors like Peter Hall. I shudder at the atrocities regularly commited in opera houses today.
My ONLY observation that I personally can critique - and I emphasize - this is my personal taste - at times I prefer the often brisker tempi of the legendary Fritz Reiner performance (available on CD). At times, for me the tempos here could have been a little freer, with perhaps a little more abandon. At other times, however, the tempos were for me PERFECT, and perhaps even better than my expectations. This production includes what seems the COMPLETE duet between Don Jose and Escamillo. THANK YOU maestro Haitink.
THANK YOU TO ALL INVOLVED IN THIS FIRST RATE PERFORMANCE !