As well as triumphant successes as Carmen in London, Vienna and Munich, Elīna Garanča, “the Carmen of our day” (News, Austria), took New York’s Metropolitan Opera by storm in this ‘Met Live in HD’ performance, transmitted to cinemas around the world and now available for the first time on BluRay. Starring alongside her is star tenor Roberto Alagna as Don José, Barbara Frittoli as his first love Micaëla and New Zealand baritone Teddy Tahu Rhodes as the toreador Escamillo. The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra is conducted by rising star Canadian maestro Yannick Nézet-Séguin.
Les pêcheurs de perles dates from 1863 and represents much more than a mere operatic exercise written by a twenty-five-year-old composer. Pêcheurs is, as a matter of fact, the only other Bizet opera, beside Carmen, to have remained in the repertoire. This opera contains memorable passages, which have ensured its long-lasting success and which many great singers (beginning with Caruso) have recorded and performed: for example the aria of Nadir Je crois entendre encore; the beautiful aria of Léïla Comme autrefois, dans la nuit sombre and, above all, the superb duet between Léïla and Nadir Ton cour n’a pas compris le mien.
A collection of Bizet's piano music is a bit more desirable as a purchase than instrumental music by other composers known primarily for opera; Bizet was a fine pianist and made money through his keyboard skills while he was struggling as an opera composer. He wasn't happy about it, however, and his complete compositions as a group reveal his ambivalent attitude.
Unlike some of the old RCA and Columbia Records classical works on LP, the DGG performances are excellent for getting the dynamics as realistic as possible, and this is an excellent example of this. Lalo I believe was French but with Spanish ancestry, I presume that is why he was paired with Bizet. But I find their styles of composition are not alike. Lalo loves to use various tempos of 3, either waltz type tempos or 6/8, but what I find interesting is that his music can at times be very fiery, probably due to the Spanish influence. This is displayed in many of the pieces in CD#2, and I've not found another composer who does this so effectively. He also is a master of orchestral color, using castanets, cymbals, and other percussion perfectly.
This spectacular opera film was taped in 1967 and is based on the 1966 Salzburg Festival production directed by Herbert von Karajan himself, who also conducts the fabulous Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. The production features the three greatest exponents of their respective roles at the time: Grace Bumbry’s magnificently seductive-toned Carmen, Mirella Freni’s ineffably lovely, touching Micaëla and Jon Vickers’s thrillingly manic-depressive Don José.
Musically, the production is excellent. Béatrice Uria-Monzon is a smart…Roberto Alagna is in excellent voice, too, offering honeyed tones that never disguise his passion or his potential for violence…Erwin Schrott is an impressively self-confident Escamillo…The other roles are well handled-and Marc Piollet and the orchestra provide a high-contrast palette, with plenty of detail and vitality. Sound is first-rate, as is clarity of the picture; and the patient and luxurious camerawork avoids the hyperactivity that mars so many opera videos these days. All in all, then, a very good Carmen… (Fanfare)