»This is a problem recording, and even fans of Leonard Bernstein and Marilyn Horne will find it odd« writes a large mail-order media company about this “Carmen” production. However, discerning listeners who submerge themselves in the music will soon conclude that the problem is rather to be found among the many highly acclaimed and styled-up other recordings that present the fiery musical portrait as a sanitized, spirited indoor ballet. This is very different from Bernstein, who hints at the work’s inevitable tragedy already in the agonisingly weighty clashing cymbals of the surprisingly slow opening. His rustic-sounding street scenes are filled with vaudeville, raw and authentic, and so typical of how people behave when they dance out-of-doors. This Carmen is far closer to the cracking “Westside Story” than a saturated “Traviata”.
Marilyn Horne in the title role lends the full-blooded Carmen such an incredible voice in all manner of moods that one can hardly believe that we are listening to just one singer. One minute we hear the bright voice of a young girl lusting for life, and in the next minute the mezzo-like pained cry of a man-killing heroine.
James McCracken has a distinctive dry voice, which is full of rousing passion, and is ideal in the role of Don José. He is complemented by the dramatic, powerful baritone Tom Krause as the torero Escamillo.
Harry Pearson, the founder and former Editor in Chief of the specialist magazine “The Absolute Sound”, accorded this outstanding recording a regular mention in his ‘super disc’ list – no problem!