Carmen (Garanča)

Georges Bizet Carmen opera to libretto by Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy. Directed 2010 by Richard Eyre at the Met. Stars Elīna Garanča (Carmen), Roberto Alagna (Don José), Barbara Frittoli (Micaëla), Teddy Tahu Rhodes (Escamillo), Elizabeth Caballero (Frasquita), Sandra Piques Eddy (Mercédès), Trevor Scheunemann (Moralès), Keith Miller (Zuniga), Earle Patriarco (Le Dancaïre), Keith Jameson (Le Remendado), Maria Kowroski (dancer), and Martin Harvey (dancer). Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducts the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Chorus (Chorus Master Donald Palumbo), a production Stage Band (Conductor Jeffrey Goldberg), and the Children's Chorus (Director Anthony Piccolo). Set and costume design by Rob Howell; lighting design by Peter Mumford; choreography by Christopher Wheeldon; associate costume design by Irene Bohan; muscial preparation by Joan Dornemann, Jane Klaviter, Linda Hall, Pierre Vallet, and Jonathan Kelly; fight direction by Nigel Poulton; assistant stage direction by Jonathan Loy, Paula Williams, and Tomer Zvulun; dramaturgy by Paul Cremo. TV Director was Gary Halvorson; Music Producer was Jay David Saks; Supervising Producers were Mia Bongiovanni and Elena Park; Producers were Louisa Briccetti and Victoria Warivonchik. Released 2012, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: A

I put this one in the player 5 minutes after the postman delivered it. Elīna Garanča is the prettiest Carmen now in HDVD; her singing is fabulous and she can also act and even dance a bit. But such a sublimely elegant woman exudes a different aura from that of an earthy gipsy---she's slumming. Her brilliance also wipes out Alagna. He lost weight and got in shape for this, and he may be singing Don José more now than anyone else. But I can't see the sex appeal to make this Carmen fall in love with him at first sight. (I think Alagna matches up much better with Béatrice Uria-Monzon in the Calixto Bieito version at the Gran Teatre del Liceu.) Teddy Tahu Rhodes is great as Escamillo, especially in view of the fact that he was an emergency hire contacted after breakfast on the day this production was shot. Barbara Frittoli sings Micaëla well, but she doesn't make me tear up like Norah Amsellem in the ROH 2006 version. The orchestra is fine as conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin.

My biggest criticism of this production would be drabness in set and costume design. This is a utterly traditional version of Carmen. But it's updated to a time (not too remote from the Great Depression) when men were armed with automatic pistols and Zippo-style cigarette lighters as well as knives. The sets depict mostly ruins of buildings and a fallen masonry wall. It's all quite monotone; everyone looks depleted and threadbare. If you're going to do a traditional Carmen, I want to see local color, not social realism.

The Met credits 10 cameramen and 5 guys working on a "robotic dolly camera." The result is almost unbelievable good picture quality, color handling, and video content. The sound quality is also excellent. Disc authorship is solid, and there is an impressive and detailed keep-case booklet. But one quibble would be the inclusion of the between-act "hosting" by Rene Fleming. This title was shot at the same time that the show was presented "live" in movie houses around the world. There is probably a need for some bland chatter to amuse the audiences trapped at intermissions in movie houses smelling of popcorn. I would prefer to have this deleted from the HDVD program and included as a bonus. So if you want to show this Carmen straight through in your home theater, you will have to rehearse pushing the "skip" button when the time comes.

Now to a grade. HDVD opera fans are so happy to get this title from the Met after several years when the Met ignored the HDVD Blu-ray market. This is a very enjoyable and well-done product; I'm happy to give it an "A." For reasons mentioned above, I still prefer the ROH version. But if you have any particular interest in this title, let this be your first choice.