PERFORMER: Jennifer Larmore, Thomas Moser, Angela Gheorghiu, Samuel Ramey; Bavarian State Opera Chorus, Bavarian State Orchestra/Giuseppe Sinopoli
CATALOGUE NO: 0630-12672-2
Of all the great operas – and this is among the greatest – Carmen is one of the hardest to bring off. Both in the theatre and on disc it slips easily into dull routine, and this new release is no exception. Little account is taken of the light, lively opéra-comique tradition behind the work: Giuseppe Sinopoli is a plodding conductor, and even when he picks up speed his rhythms lack lift.
But the set is worth hearing for Angela Gheorghiu’s radiant Micaëla: she sings French with flair, and provides the deepest characterisation. This Micaëla is no softie: she’s a strong Spanish girl who risks everything for José. Jennifer Larmore, by contrast, offers little character development as Carmen, singing from the start as if she knows her fate (she has not tackled the role on stage). There’s no flirtation in her evenly produced mezzo, and with all her Baroque experience she tends to sound like a castanets-clicking Giulio Cesare. Thomas Moser is a musical Don José and Samuel Ramey a macho Escamillo whose French, like Larmore’s, is transatlantic. With its Italian conductor, German chorus and orchestra and starry international cast, this is just another non-Francophone recording of Carmen – the kind companies produce to prove their Escamillo-like virility. John Allison