October 26, 2015

101 Reel-to-Reel Tapes 110: Victoria de los Ángeles ~ Carmen

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I started the Vinyl LP series because I have a collection of over 20,000 vinyl record albums I am selling; each blog entry is about an album from my collection. The 101 Reel-to-Reel Tapes series is an extension of that collection. Inquire for information here.   

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Victoria de los Ángeles was among the first Spanish-born operatic singers to record the complete opera of Carmen in June, 1958, at the Salle Wagram, Paris, France., with tenor Nicolai Gedda and the Orchestra of the RDF conducted by Sir Thomas Beecham, using the recitatives added by Ernest Guiraud after Bizet's death. This was the only audio recording by her of Bizet's Carmen.    

Victoria de los Ángeles ~ Carmen
reel-to-reel tape box detail
detail photo by Styrous®

Carmen (French pronunciation: ​[kaʁmɛn]; Spanish: [ˈkarmen]) is an opera in four acts by the French composer Georges Bizet. The libretto was written by Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy, based on a novella of the same title by Prosper Mérimée. The opera was first performed at the Opéra-Comique in Paris, on March 3, 1875.     

As with all things music, there is one song, melody, aria, whatever, that is my very favorite. Carmen is no exception and the two "Top Hits!" are not my favorite. Nope, my favorite is the Quintette from Act 2,  Nous avons en tête une affaire! (We have in mind a bargain!).   

The song starts out like most opera songs do (ho-hum) then it quietly builds up to the speed of a run-away train; staccato, syncopated and rambunctious! The harmonic gymnastics of the singers is stunning! It does quiet down for a bit but takes off again with a vengeance. It is a cross between a French Can-Can, a Gilbert & Sullivan patter song, and a cumbia. Think on that a while. :-)   
(Link to the song on YouTube here, if you'd like to listen to it while you read on)  

The opera bombed because of its breaking of convention and controversial main characters, which shocked and scandalized its first audiences. In its initial run at the Opéra-Comique, Carmen provoked little public enthusiasm; Carmen was often performed to half-empty houses, even when the management gave away large numbers of tickets. Early on June 3, the day after the opera's 33rd performance, Bizet died suddenly of heart disease at the age of 36. It was his wedding anniversary. That night's performance was cancelled. He would never know of its outstanding success in Vienna later that year, or that it would win enduring international acclaim within the next ten years. 

Camille Du Locle brought Carmen back in November of 1875, with the original cast, and it ran for a another 12 performances until February 15, 1876, to give a year's total for the original production of 48. Among those who attended one of these later performances was Tchaikovsky, who wrote to his benefactor, Nadezhda von Meck: "Carmen is a masterpiece in every sense of the word ... one of those rare creations which expresses the efforts of a whole musical epoch". After the final performance, Carmen was not seen in Paris again until 1883.       

Victoria de los Ángeles ~ Carmen
reel-to-reel tape box back details
detail photos by Styrous®

Carmen has since become one of the most popular and frequently performed operas in the classical repertoire; the Habanera from act 1 and the Toreador Song from act 2 are among the best known of all operatic arias. There is a link below to YouTube for the Toreador song from the movie, Carmen, released on  March 14, 1984, with Julia Mingenes-Johnson as Carmen, Placido Domingo as Don Jose and Ruggero Raimondi as El Matador.       

The libretto

The libretto is the same size printed for regular vinyl LP records. The box for the reel-to-reel tape was smaller, so, they just folded it in half then in half again. It makes for a messy libretto but, oh, well!  
Set in Seville around the year 1830, the opera deals with the love and jealousy of Don José, who is lured away from his duty as a soldier and his beloved Micaëla by the gypsy factory-girl Carmen, whom he allows to escape from custody. He is later induced to join the smugglers with whom Carmen is associated, but is driven wild by jealousy. This comes to a head when Carmen makes clear her preference for the bull-fighter Escamillo. The last act, outside the bull-ring in Seville, brings Escamillo to the arena, accompanied by Carmen, there stabbed to death by Don José, who has been awaiting her arrival (link to complete synopsis below).         

Victoria de los Ángeles ~ Carmen
reel-to-reel tape label detail
detail photo by Styrous®

Net links: 
Carmen ~ complete synopsis     
              ~  musical numbers          
              ~ roles                    
Victoria de los Ángeles at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics               

Carmen on YouTube:  
Nous avons en tête une affaire!    
Victoria de los Angles ~ Habanera (film-date unknown)   
Toreador Song
Random Act of Culture Toreador Song             

The Victoria de los Ángeles sings Carmen, reel-to-reel tape is for sale on eBay       

Styrous® ~ Monday, October 28, 2015 

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