[Met Performance] CID:243180
Carmen {729} Metropolitan Opera House: 10/30/1975.


Metropolitan Opera House
October 30, 1975

CARMEN {729}
Bizet-Meilhac/L. Halévy

Carmen..................Régine Crespin
Don José................James McCracken
Micaela.................Lucine Amara
Escamillo...............Matteo Manuguerra
Frasquita...............Alma Jean Smith
Mercédès................Cynthia Munzer
Remendado...............Andrea Velis
Dancaïre................Russell Christopher
Zuniga..................Andrij Dobriansky
Moralès.................Gene Boucher
Lillas Pastia...........Paul Franke

Conductor...............Henry Lewis

Production..............Göran Gentele
Stage Director..........Bodo Igesz
Set & Lighting designer.Josef Svoboda
Costume designer........David Walker
Choreographer...........Alvin Ailey

Carmen received twenty-two performances this season.

Review of Byron Belt in Newsday


The Metropolitan Opera has found a glorious new Carmen, but it still has no Carmen" production worthy of honoring composer George Bizet on the one hundredth anniversary of his death.

Bizet's perfect opera remains a horror to produce dramatically and visually. The current Met production is something of a Nordic-Teutonic neo-Goya confusion that – that for all its stunning moments ultimately fails rather badly.

We seem stuck with the current "Carmen," and last evening it was given the glow of style and the glitter of glamour when French soprano Regine Crespin essayed the title role for the very first time in her career. One savors a European recording of Crespin's Carmen impatiently, for the lady is vocally a dream in one of the most demanding roles in all of opera.

Crespin's rich, ripe voice can be seductive, playful or passionately expressive without ever losing its distinctive, exquisite timbre. Her Carmen is a subtle mix who enjoys playing with her men, and a woman torn between boredom and fear when it comes time to give up Don Jose, Always in command of herself, Crespin's Carmen remains something of a fatalist, and she fairly embraces Don Jose's dagger during the final tragic dounement.

As marvelous as Regine Crespin's Carmen already is, there will surely be growth with each and every performance. A fascinating creation seems destined to become of the supreme French operatic heroines of our age...

Conductor Henry Lewis seems to have earned public disfavor and we were certainly among the disapproving opening week. Lewis leads a sometimes curious but generally expressive and sensuous "Carmen," and only lack of control over the chorus mars what seems a fine conception.

The chorus was something of a problem, thanks largely to the misdirection of Bodo Igesz, who assumed leadership of "Carmen" after the death of its planner, Goeran Gentile. The children, once the stars of the show, are now trapped trying to watch some assistant conductor, and so they never once met the Lewis beat from the pit, and lost most of their character and musical personality.

James McCracken elected to sing Don Jose's "Flower Song" with full voice, and it as a great improvement over earlier efforts at refinement. He also sang it without a flower, which seems odd, considering the text, but he was generally moving as the tortured lover.

Lucine Amara is celebrating her twenty-fifth anniversary at the Met, and she sang Micaela last evening with great freshness of voice and her usual sensitive musicality. Matteo Manuguerra is both physically and vocally miscast as Escamillo, lacking the glamour for the part and the vocal brilliance to control the low-lying music.

Alma Jean Smith's Frasquita is painful to hear, but vivacious on stage, and Cynthia Munzer, Paul Franke, Andrea Velis, Gene Boucher and Russell Christopher rounded out the supporting cast handsomely.

Even an imperfect "Carmen" is a rare and wonderful thing, and Regine Crespin adds great stature to the Met's troubled production.

Review of Peter G. Davis in the London Times

Perhaps the most arresting and controversial performance to be seen at the Met to date this season is Régine Crespin's Carmen, a role she had previously recorded and sung in concert but never before onstage. Crespin's Carmen is one of inexhaustible fascination and consistent vocal allure. Few would deny the latter, for the soprano seems to have returned to complete vocal health after several years of technical problems, and rarely has Bizet's music been more seductively phrased or hauntingly colored. And what a pleasure to hear the French text, both sung and spoken, handled with such natural, easy authority!

Dramatically, this was not a Carmen for all tastes. Crespin is a large, strikingly handsome woman, her stage manner invariably graceful and subdued, yet in moments of tension utterly commanding. Best of all, Crespin has worked out a conception of the part that works for her in almost every respect. For the first act and a half this Carmen is nonchalant, vaguely amused by the influence she exercises over men but detached and blasé. When Don Jose hurls her to the floor just before singing his Flower Song, the violent gesture seems to crystallize in Carmen the realization that her ultimate freedom lies in death and that Jose is the means to achieve this goal. From that point until she virtually embraces her lover's knife, Carmen is transformed into a bitter, taunting, self-destructive woman as she goads Jose to murder - and the instant of death when she reaches out to caress José becomes a moment of almost unbearable pathos. Only the greatest artistry could bring off such an unusual interpretation and Crespin holds one in thrall every instant she is onstage

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