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Bizet Carmen

Krasteva, Antonenko, Holecek,Elmgren
Brno National Theatre Orchestra & Chorus/Märzendorfer

Live from Opernfestspiel St. Margarethen, summer 2005

DoRo/EuroArts DVD 2054522 [185 mins]

This must have been a tremendous show for the audiences of 4800 in the vast outdoor auditorium. But, so far as we have been able to gather from reviews of the live festival occasion on The Opera Critic (Salzburger Nachtrichen, in German), home viewers on DVD may be getting a better deal.

The amplification was (necessarily) huge, and the audience applause as it reaches us is distant and muted. However, both visuals and sound are well managed on the DVD, with voices and the Brno National Theatre Orchestra/Ernst Märzendorfer arriving at our armchairs with admirable vividness and immediacy.

The set boasted in its "historic" centre a 24 metre high copy of the clocktower of Seville Cathedral. You can see behind imposing palaces, a little chapel and other villages, with the sky above. The TV directors balance judiciously spectacle (plenty of horses and carriages, and magnificent crowd scenes) with intimacy for the dialogues.

Carmen is not one of my favourite operas, but I have enjoyed this version as well as any seen over the years in the opera houses. Nadia Krasteva is a splendid Carmen and she is well partnered by Aleksander Antonenko (Don José) and Sebastian Holecek (Escamillo), with Asa Elmgren (Micaela) engaging our sympathy and the other featured roles sharply characterised.

My only substantial criticism is that you have to accept, and get to ignore, the radio mics plastered onto all the principals' foreheads; there must be a better way?

Peter Grahame Woolf