This is a thrillingly fresh and vibrant version of
Carmen, conducted by Simon Rattle, writes Rupert Christiansen.
Magdalena Kozená (Carmen), Jonas
Kaufmann (Don José), Genia Kühmeier (Micaela), Kostas Smoriginas
(Escamillo), Chor und Kinderchor der Deutschen Staatsoper
Berlin, Berlin Philharmoniker, cond Sir Simon Rattle
This thrillingly fresh and vibrant version of Carmen, based on
performances given in Salzburg and Berlin earlier this year,
deserves to rank with the classic recordings conducted by
Beecham and Abbado. Sir Simon Rattle has always shown a rare
affinity with the colours and flavours of French music, and his
Bizet proves as dazzling as his Debussy or Ravel – full of
swagger, exuberance and theatrical vitality, yet alive to the
finer details of the orchestration as well.
This we may
have expected: but what is pleasantly surprising is the success
of Magdalena Kozená in the title role, which she presents as a
convincingly cool and intelligent Carmen of real dignity and
Jonas Kaufmann is a heroic José,
Genia Kühmeier sounds appropriately sweet and virginal as
Micaela, while Kostas Smoriginas blusters effectively enough as
the absurd Escamillo.
The chorus of the Deutsche Oper
Berlin is superb, while the Berlin Philharmonic lets down its
hair and plays for Rattle with magnificent abandon. If you are
tired of Carmen or think you know the score backwards, here is a
performance to make you fall in love with it all over again.