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Thread: Bizet on DVD and Blu-ray

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    Senior Member Herkku's Avatar
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    Default Bizet on DVD and Blu-ray



    This performance is part of a box titled Teatro La Fenice Collection. I initially assumed that all performances would have been from the rebuilt La Fenice (I was lucky enough to see Adriana Lecouvreur at the old opera house), but this one was filmed in Teatro Malibran, a temporary refuge (still in Venice) during the reconstruction. The performance is from the year 2004, at the end of which the new opera opened. There are six operas in the box, some of which have been recorded in the new opera house, still aptly named La Fenice or the Phoenix, raising from the ashes. I shall deal with them one at a time, otherwise I might easily forget my impressions of each. At least this one seems to be available separately.

    Les Pècheurs de perles is one of those operas, that are known for a single aria, Nadir's "Je crois entendre encore", possibly also for the duet of Nadir and Zurga "Au fond du temple saint". But as this DVD shows it works on stage as a whole. Again, I won't bother with the plot, which is easily enough accessed through internet. The opera precedes Carmen by something like twelve years, but the music is wonderful and the beautiful melodies are already there. Dancers are used effectively in an opera that might be a little static otherwise.

    Annick Massis as Léïla is a complete revelation to me. She has a wonderful voice to begin with, but she looks uncannily - at least from some camera angles - like Maria Callas!



    The Japanese tenor, Yasu Nakajima, may seem a bit incongruous here, being a head shorter than Léïla (and everything supposedly taking place somewhere in India), but otherwise sings his role admirably, the famous aria included.

    Zurga, Luca Grassi, has a handsome baritone voice, his strong high notes exceptional. The opera is conducted by Marcello Viotti.

    All in all, the performance is well worth both seeing and hearing.

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    Senior Member DarkAngel's Avatar
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    Default Bizet on DVD and Blu-ray



    Received yet another Carmen, but this has a fatal flaw............

    I have lost track how many Carmens I own or have seen, as you would expect Carreras and Ramey give great male performances especially Ramey as Escamillo, but Agnes Baltsa is not a "natural" Carmen......she does not have the sexy seductress in her blood and seems self conscious in her acting of this role, a forced dark brooding portrayal.

    The act 1 & 4 town square stage sets are huge and amazingly detailed for this 1988 MET production, like a big budget hollywood movie set! Also the act 2 gypsy dance set (three sisters) was better than usual even though Baltsa did not join in the dancing (as a "natural" Carmen would) This does not compete with the best versions because of flawed Carmen character but will keep it for now......boderline sell

    I know who would be perfect for Carmen........Danielle DeNiese
    She is very sexy sultry and playful and has very good dancing skills, I will wait to see if this ever develops, she would be a natural




    For now AC Antonacci remains my preferred modern Carmen....

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    Senior Member DarkAngel's Avatar
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    I cheated and watched Garanca Carmen on MET Player before DVDs arrived.......

    Garanca and Alagna both are among the best Carmen/Don Jose duos available on DVD singing and acting very good, Elina is S E X Y hot but the production has problems for me........

    Act 1 staging left much to be desired, town square looked like a bombed out monastary (what were they thinking?) and everyone wore generic beige/cream colored costumes (except soldiers and Carmen) very bland visually and the factory girls come out of storm shelter doors below the floor center stage.......so much could have been better here, baffling poor production choices

    Things get back on track act 2 at Lillias Pasta's place, Garanca scores bonus points for dancing with gypsy girls......as a real Carmen would, bravo! Suddenly clothing has color and visual interest mssing from act 1 and everythings goes well here. Same for
    act 3 in the mountain gypsy camp.

    Now act 4 first half is pretty good but I have seen better entries of the bull fighters and crowd scences. Second half show down with Carmen and Don Jose starts with Alagna sporting a large vampire hunters cross (like a Hammer horror flix) around his neck.
    After we get past this silliness I rather like the death scence, a couple unique twists when Don Jose puts ring back on Carmen after stabbing her and then the sky turns blood red and stage rotates to see final bull ring kill shot.......great! Now why did we not see cool things like this in act 1.......

    I will probably keep this DVD because of good picture quality and quality performances of Garanca and Alagna, will sell the Baltsa/Carreras version just mentioned above since there is no way to overlook a weak flawed Carmen character

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    Senior Member Almaviva's Avatar
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    Default Bizet: Les pêcheurs de perles on DVD

    Bizet's Les pêcheurs de perles.

    I love it. I don't understand where the criticism of this opera comes from . People say that the libretto is ridiculous - I've seen worse.

    I think it is shockful of beautiful music and impressive, majestic orchestration, beautiful choruses, and two of the best pieces ever: the Au fond du temple saint duet and the Je crois entendre encore tenor aria. And there is more, a lot more - some beautiful love duets, a nice cavatina by Leila, a majestic finale to Act II, opportunities for some nice exotic ballets. There is good pace, the music flows very smoothly, and even the recitatives are very pleasant and easily get into bursts of melodious ariosi. The recurring friendship leitmotif is beautiful.

    I think people say they are disappointed because they keep waiting for another Carmen. Carmen it is not, but it is still a very beautiful opera.

    For me, it's an A+ and I don't care what the critics say.

    Je crois entendre encore,
    Caché sous les palmiers,
    Sa voix tendre et sonore
    Comme un chant de ramier!
    O nuit enchanteresse!
    Divin ravissement!
    O souvenir charmant!
    Folle ivresse! doux rêve!

    Aux clartés des étoiles,
    Je crois encore la voir,
    Entr'ouvrir ses longs voiles
    Aux vents tièdes du soir!
    O nuit enchanteresse! etc
    Charmant souvenir!



    This production is not tops, and the singing is so-so in parts, better in orders, but there aren't alternatives on DVD so it will have to do, because the opera is so good!
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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    Senior Member Almaviva's Avatar
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    Default Bizet: La Jolie Fille de Perth on non-commercial DVD

    There is no commercial DVD of this opera, but there are at least three recordings on CD, one of them with June Anderson, Alfred Kraus, and José van Dam. I haven't listened to any, and this is my first experience with this opera.

    I got a non-commercial DVD from Premiere Opera, recorded in 1999 from a TV broadcast of a production by the Théâtre Impérial de Compiègne, with singers and a conductor who are completely unknown to me with just one exception. I forgot the name of the French conductor, who is at the head of an equally unknown orchestra from Hungary (why?). The title role (Cathérine Glover, the fair maid of the title) is by the very pretty soprano Inva Mula (another one for our lovely sopranos thread), who sings well and is easily the best artist in this production - she is known for being the alien opera singer in The Fifth Element.



    The other principals are young and good looking but don't sing as well. Charles Workman is her love interest Henry Smith, LaPointe is the Duke, de Beaufort is Mag, the gypsy, and there are other minor roles. All of them except Inva Mula are rather mediocre singers. Although I haven't heard this opera before, I suspect that the conductor set the tempo too slow (because Bizet is usually more lively than what I've just heard, and a couple of arias from this opera that I knew from compilations do seem to have been played with a faster tempo in those compilations).

    The staging is ugly, ineffective, and senseless, with a number of weird convoluted big stones/boulders hanging from the ceiling (why??). Everything is rather dark and the costumes border the ridiculous. There is the usual regietheater touch: it's the 14th century, but three watchmen who patrol the streets have electric flashlights. Acting is pretty bad, again with the exception of Inva Mula who was decent; the others were stiff and unconvincing (although they did look their parts).

    The quality of this non-commercial DVD, technically speaking, is rather decent. If you buy this (I got it for $5), don't expect commercial quality, but of the non-commercial DVDs that I have purchased so far, it's the second best I've seen, in terms of image and sound. The image is steady and without distortions, colors are good, and the sound is clear and well balanced, in spite of a very low hiss that is not bothersome.

    About the opera itself, it is the third from Bizet that I get to know, and it is clearly inferior to his two best known works, Carmen and Les Pêcheurs de Perles. But this is more the fault of the libretto than that of Bizet. His music is pretty beautiful and melodious throughout the entire work. The problem resides more in the slow pace of the plot, the predictable and cliché nature of the story, and the lack of real dramatic impact of its happy ending. We are miles away from the emotions of his two masterpieces.

    In a few words, here is the plot: Commoner boy loves commoner girl. Perverted nobleman flirts with girl, drawing the jealousy of his Gypsy former lover. Nobleman invites commoner girl to his palace for a night of love; she refuses. Gypsy girl dances sensually for nobleman, who asks her to arrange for commoner girl to come to his palace. Gypsy girl is livid with jealousy, pretends to agree, but for revenge, disguises herself to look like commoner girl and goes to the palace, leading commoner boy to think that his beloved is unfaithful. Gypsy girl wears a carnival mask and engages in a night of love with nobleman who can't tell the difference and thinks that he has had the commoner girl. Gypsy flees in the morning without revealing her identity. Girl's father announces to nobleman that his daughter will marry commoner boy, who then publicly refuses to marry her and accuses her of being the nobleman's mistress. Girl asks nobleman to vouch for her, he doesn't (he still thinks that she was indeed the **** who slept with him). Girl faints and goes crazy. Commoner boy's friends vouch for commoner girl's honor (they saw that she wasn't the one who spent the night with nobleman) but boy doesn't believe them and as they insist, challenges one of them to a duel. They say that God will pass judgment, and if girl is virtuous, friend will prevail in the duel, but if girl is a ****, boy will prevail. Girl goes see boy, despondent, and he starts to believe her, and says that he'll let his friend kill him in the duel so that her honor is restored. A buggle call signals the start of the duel, and boy leaves to go fight against his friend. Girl goes even crazier believing that her beloved has died in the duel, and there is a mad scene. Gypsy girl has pity, arranges for nobleman to stop the duel before anybody gets killed, and shows herself disguised as commoner girl so that everybody realizes what really happened. Commoner boy and commoner girl embrace, her nervous breakdown is instantly cured, and everybody rejoices. Curtain.

    Basically, a lot goes one but nothing really happens. Like Bellini once said, opera seria needs a couple of murders, a couple of stabbings or poisonings. Happy endings don't mix very well with opera seria.

    Anyway, there are some memorable arias - the recurrent love theme recovered from the boy's serenade to his girl, the friend (who is also in love with girl) lamenting his sort, a drinking song, the usual coloraturas for the mad scene, some good choral music, and the usual folkloric music for the Gipsy's sensual dance. Everything very conventional. Nothing really original or impressive.

    However, like I said, the music *is* beautiful. Another case of a weak libretto set to good music. I'm not sure if this warrants a revival. Most likely, it's best enjoyed in highlights of the best arias and orchestral parts.
    Last edited by Almaviva; Jan-10-2011 at 07:28.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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    Moderator mamascarlatti's Avatar
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    Like Alma I am surprised that this opera has not had more success - overshadowed by Carmen I suppose. As well as the stunning arias he mentions, there is a wonderful confrontation scene in the last act between the soprano and the spurned baritone which rivals the last act of Carmen in intensity if not melodic structure. Reviewers on Amazon have criticised the tenor (unusual, offpitch, thin) so much that I was expecting something truly awful and was pleasantly surprised by what I heard, I enjoyed his singing. Of course he's short and rather pudgy while the baritone is tall and gorgeous, but that's one of the paradoxes of opera isn't it, the male love interest is often so unattractive.

    I found the DVD very lovely visually, the costumes are various shades of dusky red, orange and saffron, the dancing is convincingly done by beautiful Italian people. I'd recommend it, in fact I see that it is part of a box set from La Fenice and I'm tempted, seeing as I could get 6 operas for the price of 2 (including Thais) - Herkku, you have this I believe, what do you think?
    Last edited by mamascarlatti; Jan-25-2011 at 02:02.
    Natalie

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    Senior Member Almaviva's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mamascarlatti View Post


    Like Alma I am surprised that this opera has not had more success - overshadowed by Carmen I suppose. As well as the stunning arias he mentions, there is a wonderful confrontation scene in the last act between the soprano and the spurned baritone which rivals the last act of Carmen in intensity if not melodic structure. Reviewers on Amazon have criticise the tenor (unusual, offpitch, thin) so much that I was expecting something truly awful and was pleasantly surprised by what I heard, I enjoyed his singing. Of course he's short and rather pudgy while the baritone is tall and gorgeous, but that's one of the paradoxes of opera isn't it, the male love interest is often so unattractive.

    I found the DVD very lovely visually, the costumes are various shades of dusky red, orange and saffron, the dancing is convincingly done by beautiful Italian people. I'd recommend it, in fact I see that it is part of a box set from La Fenice and I'm tempted, seeing as I could get 6 operas for the price of 2 (including Thais) - Herkku, you have this I believe, what do you think?
    I'm glad that you liked it. As an opera, I like it more than Carmen. As a production, it is faulty but not too much, it is still quite enjoyable, of the "pretty good" kind without being perfect or outstanding. This opera is calling for a top quality DVD or blu-ray with prime singers.

    The Thais from Venice is very good too, and also in the same category - not outstanding, with problems, but pretty good.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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    Les pêcheurs de perles is a great opera, I like it more than Carmen too.
    It is awesome, I have the same DVD than Natalie.

    But I have (other 2 regular Carmens in French) Carmen on DVD sung in Russian, that's funny (not for Almaviva, but for me). LOL

    Martin

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    Senior Member Aksel's Avatar
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    Yesterday, the 2010 Met Carmen with Elina Garanca and Roberto Alagna aired on Norwegian TV. Here is what I thought of it:



    The staging pretty much consisted of two really tall ruins that could spin around and a bunch of chairs and tables in the second act. I was very well done, but nothing spectacular.

    The conductor was Yannick Nézet-Séguin, who did a very good job. His tempi were a bit on the fast side at times, but overall, the conducting was very good.
    The Met orchestra were also splendid.

    The chorus was rather good. The males especially. I did, however have some issues with the female and children's choruses.
    The first thing is really purely about the staging, though. In the first act, when the women leave the cigarette factory and come out to flirt with the men, I have this image of the women being dirty, or at least rather sweaty from having worked in the factory all day under that rather smoldering Spanish sun. In this production, however, they were impeccably clean when entering the stage.
    The other thing about the ladies was a general lack of aggression. In the first act, when the women are arguing about whose fault it was that that Manuelita had her face slashed open, I didn't really get the feeling that these women were as angry and aggressive as the score and libretto has them be.
    Also, the children. I feel that the children need to be more "child-like" when they sing in this opera. I believe this is especially important for their first chorus, at the changing of the guards. Otherwise, it loses some of the effect.

    The title role of Carmen was sung by Elina Garanca. I have to admit that I was at first a bit skeptical to her singing Carmen, seeing as I really only know her as a bel canto mezzo (an then only from the Cenerentola with Brownlee a few years ago). I was very pleasantly surprised. Carmen should be the embodiment of sex, and Garanca plays the part of "sexy-gipsy seductress" very well. Her singing is quite simply amazing with loads of dramatic intensity and just sheer sexiness.
    The only thing I'm not completely satisfied with, is the fact that I think Garanca is a wee bit too young to be singing Carmen, or at least look older. In my head, Carmen is the ultimate cougar.
    I do think she is the best Carmen in a long time (with one exception, but that's not important).

    Don José was sung by Roberto Alagna. Now, I'm not really a great fan of him, and wasn't totally converted by this Carmen, but it was pretty darn close. I felt his Don José lacked a bit in dramatic intensity, especially in the fourth act. But it was a very strong performance nevertheless. His singing was really, really good.
    I prefer Jonas Kaufmann's Don José to Alagna's, but I do think that they are both very good. But El Guapo's is better.

    Michaëla was sung by Barbara Frittoli. I was surprised at her singing Michaëla, because in my head, she only sings Alice Ford in Falstaff on small, Italian stages, but oh well. She was very good throughout, especially in the first act duet with Don José (but I and that duet go way back) and in her bit in the third act. I do find her vibrato to be almost too much in her top register, but other than that, she sang beautifully.

    Escamillo was sung very well by Teddy Tahu Rhodes stepping in for a sick Makiusz Kwiecien.

    I don't really know who sang Mercedes and Frasquita, and I really can't be bothered finding out either, but they did it very well. The robbers were also great.

    I was bothered a bit by the fact that they did the recitatived version of Carmen, as I prefer the version with spoken dialogue.

    Overall, it is a very solid performance by very capable singers.

  11. #10
    Senior Member DarkAngel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aksel View Post
    Yesterday, the 2010 Met Carmen with Elina Garanca and Roberto Alagna aired on Norwegian TV. Here is what I thought of it:



    The staging pretty much consisted of two really tall ruins that could spin around and a bunch of chairs and tables in the second act. I was very well done, but nothing spectacular.

    The conductor was Yannick Nézet-Séguin, who did a very good job. His tempi were a bit on the fast side at times, but overall, the conducting was very good.
    The Met orchestra were also splendid.

    The chorus was rather good. The males especially. I did, however have some issues with the female and children's choruses.
    The first thing is really purely about the staging, though. In the first act, when the women leave the cigarette factory and come out to flirt with the men, I have this image of the women being dirty, or at least rather sweaty from having worked in the factory all day under that rather smoldering Spanish sun. In this production, however, they were impeccably clean when entering the stage.
    The other thing about the ladies was a general lack of aggression. In the first act, when the women are arguing about whose fault it was that that Manuelita had her face slashed open, I didn't really get the feeling that these women were as angry and aggressive as the score and libretto has them be.
    Also, the children. I feel that the children need to be more "child-like" when they sing in this opera. I believe this is especially important for their first chorus, at the changing of the guards. Otherwise, it loses some of the effect.

    The title role of Carmen was sung by Elina Garanca. I have to admit that I was at first a bit skeptical to her singing Carmen, seeing as I really only know her as a bel canto mezzo (an then only from the Cenerentola with Brownlee a few years ago). I was very pleasantly surprised. Carmen should be the embodiment of sex, and Garanca plays the part of "sexy-gipsy seductress" very well. Her singing is quite simply amazing with loads of dramatic intensity and just sheer sexiness.
    The only thing I'm not completely satisfied with, is the fact that I think Garanca is a wee bit too young to be singing Carmen, or at least look older. In my head, Carmen is the ultimate cougar.
    I do think she is the best Carmen in a long time (with one exception, but that's not important).

    Don José was sung by Roberto Alagna. Now, I'm not really a great fan of him, and wasn't totally converted by this Carmen, but it was pretty darn close. I felt his Don José lacked a bit in dramatic intensity, especially in the fourth act. But it was a very strong performance nevertheless. His singing was really, really good.
    I prefer Jonas Kaufmann's Don José to Alagna's, but I do think that they are both very good. But El Guapo's is better.

    Michaëla was sung by Barbara Frittoli. I was surprised at her singing Michaëla, because in my head, she only sings Alice Ford in Falstaff on small, Italian stages, but oh well. She was very good throughout, especially in the first act duet with Don José (but I and that duet go way back) and in her bit in the third act. I do find her vibrato to be almost too much in her top register, but other than that, she sang beautifully.

    Escamillo was sung very well by Teddy Tahu Rhodes stepping in for a sick Makiusz Kwiecien.

    I don't really know who sang Mercedes and Frasquita, and I really can't be bothered finding out either, but they did it very well. The robbers were also great.

    I was bothered a bit by the fact that they did the recitatived version of Carmen, as I prefer the version with spoken dialogue.

    Overall, it is a very solid performance by very capable singers.
    I am a critic of the production here.......bombed out concentration camp ruins instead of colorful spanish town square

    Also wardrobe was rather bland for my tastes

    Still Garanca and Alagna are enough reason to own this "despite" the short comings elsewhere, could/should have been much better with the talent invloved and better production

    [YT]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OV-ZfCWM3qo&feature=player_detailpage[/YT]
    Last edited by DarkAngel; Mar-21-2011 at 16:39.

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    Senior Member Aksel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DarkAngel View Post
    I am a critic of the production here.......bombed out concentration camp ruins instead of colorful spanish town square

    Still Garanca and Alagna are enough reason to own this "despite" the short comings elsewhere, could/should have been much better with the talent invloved
    I agree. The first act was awfully bland in terms of colours. There were an awful lot of beiges and dark blues. Nothing really stood out.
    And I didn't get the whole concentration camp thing. It seemed out of place for a production that was so traditional as the rest of the production turned out to be. I much preferred the Covent Garden/Oslo production from a few years ago.

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    Moderator mamascarlatti's Avatar
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    I thought Garanča was a surprisingly good Carmen, although I defnitely don't see her as a cougar, I reckon she is still young and looking for the right guy and willing to do a lot of sampling on the way. Frittoli on the other hand was way too matronly to be Michaela. Alagna did "boyish bedazzled Don José " reallly well but I was not convinced of his "revengeful killer Don José ".
    Natalie

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    Senior Member DarkAngel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mamascarlatti View Post
    I thought Garanča was a surprisingly good Carmen, although I defnitely don't see her as a cougar, I reckon she is still young and looking for the right guy and willing to do a lot of sampling on the way. Frittoli on the other hand was way too matronly to be Michaela. Alagna did "boyish bedazzled Don José " reallly well but I was not convinced of his "revengeful killer Don José ".
    There is a "strange" scence here that I have not seen in any production from 1:50 - 3:00 where Alagna is wearing a huge crucifix and he takes it off walks over and shoves in Carmen's face till she slaps it away........got confused with a vampire movie I think

    [YT]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iN_X5CWQI98&feature=player_detailpage[/YT]

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    Senior Member Aksel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mamascarlatti View Post
    I thought Garanča was a surprisingly good Carmen, although I defnitely don't see her as a cougar, I reckon she is still young and looking for the right guy and willing to do a lot of sampling on the way.
    I see Carmen as a character that is content with her life as the sexy gypsy seductress, and I also think that she has been one for a few years. But I do think she is looking to settle down.
    In my mind, it is her sexual experience and the fact that she is sex personified that is what's so appealing to the men around her. That is also why I don't believe that Carmen needs to be especially beautiful. Her sexual-ness (no, it's not a real word, but I can't remember what the word I'm actually after is. Or if it even exists) should be enough for all of the men in the town square to be totally crazy about her.

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    Senior Member Almaviva's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DarkAngel View Post
    Also wardrobe was rather bland for my tastes
    Yes I agree that Elina's wardrobe was a big problem, in the sense that I was hoping for a malfunction but it never happened.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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