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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
Carmen [3 CD Box Set]
Format: Audio CD|Change
Price:$43.63+ Free shipping with Amazon Prime

on January 22, 2017
This is Herbert Von Karajan's final recording of "Carmen", in clinical, clear but at times cold DDD digital sound. Performance overall is excellent with the exception of a few plodding tempos, but engineering is "Grade B" and lacking in bass. Also the sound is somewhat low level and lacking in impact in the Act 3 choruses.

All the principals: Baltsa, Carreras, van Dam, Ricciarelli: are excellent as is the Berlin Philharmonic. Karajan's tempos and phrasing show many years' familiarity with Carmen.

This DG recording (1983) pales in comparison with Karajan's 1963 RCA Carmen with Leontyne Price, Franco Corelli, Mirella Freni and the Vienna Philharmonic. My recommendation would be the 1963 RCA Vienna/Karajan; both audio and performance make a better impact that holds the attention of the listener better than this DG.
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on October 30, 2016
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on May 11, 2003
I must first specify that I am not an opera fan. However, Carmen is a category-killer that transcends the genre. Abbado's version (1977) is a work of such brilliance that it is hard to imagine it ever being surpassed. But this Karajan is easily the equal of the next two most-often-mentioned bests, Beecham's 1958/9 version and Solti's 1975 effort. If you only buy one, make it Abbado; but Carmen is a hard habit to break, and this version makes a pleasant variation.
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on July 6, 2010
Beautifully played but lacks dramatic cohesiveness. I think Carreras makes a fine Don Jose. He has a good handle on the character and he is quite desperate in the last act. Comparable to Vickers and Jonas Kaufmann who I have seen live and on DVD.
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on April 13, 2014
I'm always amazed when I hear recordings of performances that knock my socks off. This recording has a great balance between the opera and the dialog parts of the performance. The singing and music is crisp, dynamic, and mesmerizing. The dialog is jovial, sincere, and cruel at times. Very moving. If you are just starting to listen to great performances, this is one of them. Enjoy!
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on April 3, 2014
Peeves first: (1) DGG does their usual substitution of actors for singers to do the spoken parts in Singspielen. The actors are fine -- they're alive to the drama, but they are in different aural space from the singers and they don't much sound like the singers. (2) Katia Ricciarrelli is disappointing as Micaela -- singing obviously carefully, but when some volume is called for on the higher notes, she wobbles noticeably. (3) Karajan can be a bit heavy and unsubtle -- the accenting around the Toreador Song is just leaden. In his defense, he does a nice job with some ensembles, especially the "fight scene" in Act 1. (4) The sound isn't as airy as Abbado's 1977 account, and it's less warm than Karajan's own 1962 account -- but it isn't bad, and (. . . leaving the peeves now) . . . the drama is engaged in a way that it wasn't in 1962. We don't have the Guiraud recitatives, and the singers are more dramatically alert, so, with apologies to Corelli, Price et. al., I prefer this one.

In the main parts, Van Dam is the best Escamillo I've heard -- so maybe a fluency in French really does count. Milnes and Merrill were good, but Van Dam just seems less stressed. As for Carreras, one wishes he had recorded this four years earlier, when his Verdi and Puccini singing for Philips was extraordinarily beautiful and dramatically alive (try "I Due Foscari"). By 1983, the voice is bit less secure, and it's heavier, but his dramatic instincts are still good, and he's is engaging to hear as Jose. If he's a bit rough in spots, well . . . Jose is in a tough situation . . . And Baltsa sings with security and passion as Carmen. She's a bit grimmer than Berganza, and (unlike Price) the voice as voice doesn't blow you away, but there's plenty of intensity and attention to the details of the dramatic situations. So, somewhat to my surprise, I find this recommendable! All three Carmens I know bring something to the table -- Price, Baltsa, and Berganza. Overall, I like the Abbado/Berganza best, but it's a close thing -- and I haven't yet heard Solti and Troyanos.
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on May 27, 2004
This is one of my favourite Carmens forever. While Baltsa may not be as fluent or idiomatic in the French style as lets say de los Angeles or Beatrice Uria-Monzon, her steamy hot mezzo will thrill you incredibly. There is a sensous, exciting glow in this seductive, dark timbre and Baltsa's unique vocal colour is as thrilling as Maria Callas' version of the fiery gypsy. Baltsa once stated that, after seeing Callas as Norma, she was proud to be a Greek singer (She saw Callas as Norma in her famous Normas in Epidaurus), she won a Callas-stipendium and became one of the greatest Cherubinos ever. Her switch to more dramatic roles like Carmen and Eboli is very interesting. This Carmen is sensual, flirtatious, brutally honest and incredibly hot. José Carreras was Baltsa's favourite partner, she preferred him over all the other Don Josés she sang with. His meltingly beautiful, dark and yet honeyed timbre is made for the dreamy, passionate and besotted Don José.
I for one don't mind von Karajan's bombastic orchestration and tempi here, I think it's very appropriate. I absolutely love this recording and I'm sure you'll never regret buying it.
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on October 11, 2005
Accidently I hit the "5 star button" and now I'm unable to edit my error..... I really wish I could give this album 5 stars, but since someone decided to ruin this recording with the use of French actors for the spoken dialogues, I simply can't give more than 4 stars. After having watched Baltsa and Carreras in the Carmen dvd I was excited to find this recording, but listening to it was a devastating experience as I became really disappointed because of the French actors who did nothing else than annoy me. I find it extremely difficult believing that the voices in the spoken dialogues should be the same as that of the singers. The speaking Carmen sounds like a woman who has spent all her life in a "boudoir" doing little else than smoking and drinking which is a stark contrast to the singing Carmen whose voice is as clear as a bell!! And while Don José Carreras melts your heart with his sensual, lyrical voice, the speaking Don José sounds as charming as a wet dishcloth. So why did they decide to let someone else than the singers perform the spoken dialogues? It beats me. It certainly can't be because they thought the singers unable to utter a spoken word. If you watch and listen to the highly recommendable Carmen dvd with Baltsa and Carreras you'll see how well they pull off this task. I have to admit that when listening to this cd I skip the spoken dialogues wherever possible - which means I work my remote control an awful lot. Enough said of this; I just needed to get it out of my system.

The singers in this album are as perfect as you'll ever want them to be. Baltsa is the best Carmen ever in my opinion; both flirtatious and a firework. After hearing her seductive "Pres de ramparts de Seville" it's no wonder Don José is irresistibly drawn to her. Even I have the same reaction to her singing as Don José. For some unknown reason; while I'm listening to the phrase "Mon officier n'est pas un capitaine" I can't stop myself from taking a deep breath of "contentment" (you know, the way you would do if someone declared his undying love for you...) and this is something that never fails to happen whenever I listen to this aria. The strange thing though is that you'll hear Don José doing the exact same thing at the exact same time. The first time I heard this it was almost unbelievable. Listen to this aria and you'll probably understand what I'm talking about.

Ricciarelli's Michaela is the sweetest one I've ever heard. If I was Don José I would really be having a hard time deciding which one of the women to choose. (But of course, no man goes for "sweet" when he can get "steamy hot" instead...) The duets between Michaela and Don José are just as sweet and tender as the duets between Carmen and Don José are full of sensual tension.

The Don José in the voice of Carreras is from my point of view the most perfect one. He can sound like the naïve and shy young soldier falling madly in love for the first time and also like the madman Don José ends up as in the final act. And speaking of the final act; the last 10-15 minutes of this opera are worth the price of the opera alone. Don José alters between begging and threatening to get Carmen back while Carmen herself refuses everything he says or does. The tension escalates every minute and ends when Don José finally kills Carmen. And I'm getting goose-flesh all over when he's crying "Ma Carmen, adorée". His singing throughout the entire opera is outstanding. I love the duets with Ricciarelli and Baltsa in addition to the famous and wonderful rendition of "La fleur que tu m'avais jetée". This aria ends up like the most gentle and tender love song. Thank you, Carreras and Karajan for that moment!

The rest of the cast are really good as well; we have José van Dam doing a fine job as the toreador Escamillo and Frasquita and Mercédès are portrayed by Christine Barbaux and Jane Berbié. So although the French actors are horrible (with the exception of Michaela) the singers make it worthwhile.
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on October 12, 2010
Bizet: Carmen is a recording under the direction of the amazing and splendid conductor Herbert Von Karajan who leads the Berlin Philharmoniker on this Deutchse Grammophon recording from 1983. The booklet is 232 pages. It contains a well-written essay by Martin Cooper entitled "George Bizet Carmen" and a synopsis written by Wolfgang Domling and translated into English by Adele Poindexter. Being a DG recording the sound is nothing short of splendid. José Carreras and Von Karajan is an amazing combination and makes for a very pleasureable listening experience. It also contains several nice photos from the time of the recording. Highly recommended. 5/5.
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on June 28, 1999
I fully agree with Ted Libbey: this marvelous recording can be a perfect introduction to the world of opera. Maestro Von Karajan achieves his trademark perfection with the Berliners and with the cast of ideal singers for Biset's masterpiece. Baltsa is simultaneously playful, witty, self-indulgent, and dangerous Carmen. She has a very long vocal phrase; and what a fiery rendition of "Les tringles des sistres tintailent"! Jose Carreras shows Don Jose's character development extremely well, from ardent and passionate, ready-to-leave-everything young soldier to a man obsessed; gradually you begin to believe Don Jose could kill. His Flower Song is very gentle and tender, as opposed to the war-cries often displayed by others. The final scene is so vividly acted, I had "tingles down my spine". Katia Ricciarelli is fully "at home" with a role of angel-like Micaela, her 1st Act duet with Carreras is one of the most beautiful things one could ever hear. Van Dam brings out everything we like to see in Escamillo: single-mindedness, arrogance, and swagger. Karajan uses an interesting orchestral arrangement of the Toreador Song before "Tout d'un coup, on fait silence..." making you imagine the pause just before the bull charges. He also slows it down a bit, increasing the tension throughout and the last chords of it are like wineglasses clashing triumphantly together. Supporting roles are taken by some impressive vocal powers, including Jane Barbie and Gino Quilico. Digital recording and great liner notes made this set more preferable to me than the celebrated Solti set, although that one too has great singing and conducting. Nothing else comes close. Btw, there is a Carmen video featuring Baltsa and Carreras, also from DG, fantastically sang and recorded.
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