Arthur Fiedler's recording of Shchedrin's Carmen Ballet is excellent in every way. The composer's imaginative rescoring of several sections of Bizet's opera for strings and percussion is a superb reorchestration exploiting a full range of percussion timbre that reveals an incredible array of views of the score that continually delight the listener. The Ballet, composed as a vehicle for his celebrated wife- prima ballerina of the Bolshoi Ballet, Maya Plisetskaya - is an extraordinary orchestration which invites the listener to explore new and very different colors with music originally scored for Bizet's classically constituted orchestra of the opera pit. While the disk also includes the Incidental Music to "Hamlet" by Shostakovich and Glazunov's Carnival Overture, it's the Shchedrin performance that makes the disk worth any price for the listener who values discovering new things in music well known in an earlier guise.
Halevy's Noé is another one of those operas that is rather obscure, but doesn't deserve to be. One may criticise it for the story stretching slightly longer than it needed to be, and occasionally one can tell that it was left incomplete, and the music not having any memorable arias (similar problems with Clari), but the story itself is quite good, after all it is based on the biblical story of Noah and the music is beautiful, it is unmistakably Halevy but Bizet's (who was responsible for completing the opera) style does come through in the orchestration.
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.