Bizet's Carmen Opens the 79th Season
Bizet's most beloved work opened the 2012-2013 Season for the Florentine Opera audience.
One of opera's most treasured classics returned to the Florentine Opera stage with a stunningly superb, critically acclaimed cast. Sensational and sensual in the Florentine’s Rigoletto (2010), Audrey Babcock returned to Milwaukee as the rebellious Carmen, sharing her unmatched chemistry with rising international star Noah Stewart in his Florentine debut as Don José. Rena Harms returned as Michaela, on the heels of her show stopping performance as Liù in Turandot. Aaron St. Clair Nicholson made his Florentine Opera debut as the macho bullfighter, Escamillo. Stage Director Dean Anthony (Tosca, 2009) and Maestro Joseph Rescigno lead the dynamic cast to a powerful performance.
Reviews, Interviews and Preview for Carmen
- Read a review of Carmen by Elaine Schmidt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
- Read a review of Carmen by Matthew Reddin of Thirdcoast Digest.
- Watch the Carmen performance clip on Ball Square Films website!
- Listen to Lake Effect on WUWM with Bonnie North and special Guests Audrey Babcock, Noah Stewart, Maestro Joseph Rescigno, and FO General Director WIlliam Florescu.
- Listen to Wisconsin Public Radio's Oct. 21 edition of 'University of the Air' with Carmen stage director Dean Anthony and FO General Director William Florescu as they discuss the opera, Bizet's talent as a composer, and the characters that make this classic one of the most beloved over all others.
- Read a preview article by Michael Muckien of the Wisconsin Gazette.
- Read a preview article by Steve Spice of the Shepherd Express.
- Read Limelight Magazine's interview (and video) with Noah Stewart (Don José in the Florentine Opera's recent production of Carmen).
- Watch Noah's latest video release from his chart topping LP.
Sung in French with English supertitles projected above the stage
This production was sponsored by Charles and Mary Ann LaBahn
Cast & Artist Biography for Carmen
- Audrey Babcock. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Carmen
- Noah Stewart*. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Don José
- Rena Harms . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Micaëla
- Aaron St. Clair Nicholson* . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Escamillo
- Peter Volpe . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Zuniga
- Dean Anthony . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Stage Director
- Joseph Rescigno. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Conductor
- Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra
- Florentine Opera Chorus
*denotes Florentine Opera debut
performances were held at Uihlein Hall,
Marcus Center for the Performing Arts
929 N. Water St., Milwaukee, WI
Friday, October 26, 2012 | 7:30pm
Sunday, October 28, 2012 | 2:30pm
The following is a companion piece to the pre-performance talk:
ON CD AND DVD
The enduring popularity of Georges Bizet's Carmen is reflected in its recording history. Beginning with one of the first full-length opera recordings ever made, a 1908 issue in German (!) starring Emmy Destinn, it has been committed to disc over and over again. For this survey I have consulted 33 CD recordings and 21 DVD versions, which are currently available. As usual, I have not attempted to include the dozens of 'unofficial' live recordings from broadcasts or other sources.
No definitive edition of the score of Carmen exists. The opera was written for the Opéra-Comique in Paris, where operas included spoken dialogue between the musical numbers. Beginning with the second performance in 1875 changes were made in the score in response to audience and critical objections to various aspects of the work, mainly to tone down some of the shockingly realistic aspects of the production. For the international market, operas written for this theatre customarily were revised to replace the spoken dialogue with orchestrally accompanied sung dialogue (recitative), but Bizet died before he could carry out this process and the task was taken over by his close friend, Ernest Guiraud. It was this version (in a German translation), which enjoyed a triumph the following fall in Vienna and which formed the basis of its subsequent world-wide popularity. Until the 1950's the original spoken dialogue version was pretty much the exclusive property of the Opéra-Comique and only a few recordings by its forces made use of it. The rest of the world knew the opera only in the recitative version.
In the early 1960's, however, the German musicologist Fritz Oeser published a new critical edition of the score which not only returned it to the dialogue version but also restored a number of sections of the score which had been cut or changed during rehearsals and during the original run of performances. This edition began to form the basis of many productions and recordings of the opera. Some of Oeser's inclusions were highly controversial, however particularly since it was impossible to be sure which cuts or changes had been artistic choices by the composer and which had been imposed on him by the management or by the performers. More recently a conductor's score has come to light, which seems to document what was played at the opening performance and includes some hand-written notations by the Bizet.
Obviously this is not the place to try to detail all the variants among these versions, but a rough indication of what to expect in a given performance can be given by indicating which of the three major versions is its basis. Accordingly I have identified my discussions of the CD and DVD recordings in two ways:
1. Dialogue versions
2. Recitative versions (the still widely used all sung version)
Dialogue versions usually include at least some of the ‘lost’ music which Oeser discovered in the archives, and performances using the dialogue almost always abridge it to a greater or lesser degree. One edition each on CD is based on the recently discovered score documenting the opera’s opening night in 1875.
Within these categories, I have led off in each with my top recommendations, followed by versions that are recommended with reservations and a final group that I do not recommend. Other groups include variant performances based on the opera ranging from performances in languages other than French, to free adaptations and to such oddities as silent film versions
The links below will take you to either the complete reviews of all performances in each format or to individual sections as indicated.
For support materials and reviews of the Carmen recordings mentioned in the discussion click the links below:
ALL-DVD reviews (all)
DVD review (Top Recommendations) • DVD review (Recommended with reservations) • DVD review (of Historic Interest) • DVD review (Offshoots and Byways) • DVD review (Not recommended)
ALL-CD reviews (all)
CD review (Top Recommendations) • CD review (Recommended with reservations) • CD review (of Historic Interest) • CD review (Other Languages) • CD review (Not recommended)