Among the many, many recordings that have been made of Carmen, this is by far the best. This is the kind of role that made Callas what she was: sultry, fiery, seductive, with a hint of exotic. Add to that superb performances of the other singers and a nice French sound in the orchestra. For all this quality, Callas never sang Carmen on stage.
Much has been said about the Greek diva, and I’m not going to add much to that. She is probably both the most famous, and the most controversial of singers of all time. Her voice was both loved and hated. Maybe for the same reason I like her so much in this recording: the expressiveness in her voice, especially in the lower registers, is enormous. There never has been a voice like that.
The opera Carmen was, as happens so many times, criticised by press, and loved by the public when it came out in 1875. The form of the composition is like the opéra comique that was common at the time in Paris. However, its drama was more like the later Puccini operas. It formed a bridge to what was later called the opéra verismo, the serious Italian opera.
It gained in popularity with the years, but only after the death of its creator. The Habanera (l’amour est un oiseau rebelle) and the song of the Toreador (Votre toast, je peux vous le rendre) might be the best known opera melodies, and the are from this opera.