Bizet; Carmen

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Bizet
LABELS: Decca
WORKS: Carmen
PERFORMER: Andrea Bocelli, Marina Domashenko, Eva Mei, Bryn Terfel, Magali Léger, Délphine Haidan, Alain Gabriel, Olivier Lallouette, Jean-Luc Ballestra, Thierry Félix; Radio France Chorus & Philharmonic Orchestra/ Myung-Whun Chung
CATALOGUE NO: 475 7646

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Darkness reigns in the mainstream classical recording industry when just about the only studio operas being made star what the cover sticker announces as ‘the world’s favourite tenor’. Cynically I might say, why not go the whole hog and cast Katherine Jenkins as Carmen and Sarah Brightman as Giordano’s Maddalena? But let’s look on the bright side.

The Carmen, with any other Don José, would be an adornment to the catalogue. We have mezzo Marina Domashenko as a forthright gypsy, not always pointing the French but wrapping her powerful tones persuasively around ‘Habanera’ and ‘Seguidilla’ – more in the Soviet tradition of a doughty Elena Obraztsova Carmen than the relatively sensual Olga Borodina.

We have Bryn Terfel as a forceful toreador, not springy enough perhaps but equipped with the full range for the big number. There’s a spot-on if slightly anonymous sounding Micaela from Eva Mei, and while the Frasquita doesn’t quite crown ensembles as she should and the Morales sets the loud tone for the lead tenor at the start, the bit parts are well done.

Myung-Whun Chung can be brittle when speedy, sometimes odd in his tempo co-ordinations, but it’s a spirited if synthetically recorded interpretation and helps, along with heavily abbreviated dialogue, to get all the music on to two discs. 

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What’s to be said about Bocelli’s tormented soldier? Well, he blares and bleats, as one might expect –  try the opening of the ‘Flower Song’ – and he has no musicality in the musical line, but he’s also mostly in tune and the top tenor notes usually ring out. David Nice