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Pierre's Tuesday Blog

Bizet, Seiji Ozawa, Orchestre National – Carmen / L'Arlésienne Suites

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This week’s Vinyl’s Revenge is one of many available couplings of Georges Bizet’s most popular suites from his stage works, notably his two suites from the incidental music he wrote for Alphonse Daudet's play L'Arlésienne and musical selections from his final opera, Carmen.

The incidental music Bizet composed for L'Arlésienne consists of 27 numbers (some only a few bars) for voice, chorus, and small orchestra, ranging from short solos to longer entr'actes. Bizet himself played the harmonium backstage at the premiere performance, which took place 1 October 1872 at the Théâtre du Vaudeville in Paris.

The play itself was not successful, closing after only 21 performances. The incidental music has survived and flourished, however. It is most often heard in the form of two suites for orchestra. Assembled by Bizet himself, L'Arlésienne Suite No. 1 uses a full symphony orchestra but without the chorus. The first performance was at a Pasdeloup concert on 10 November 1872. L'Arlésienne Suite No. 2, also written for full orchestra, was arranged and published in 1879, four years after Bizet's death, by Ernest Guiraud, using Bizet's original themes.

Ernest Guiraud, born in New Orleans, Louisiana, is also responsible for the remaining music on this Ozawa recording; Guiraud arranged twelve numbers from Bizet's opera Carmen into two orchestral Suites. Guiraud is perhaps most famous for constructing the recitatives—both beloved and criticized—that replaced the spoken dialogue in performances of Carmen for more than a century.

The original jacket notes suggest that the numbers from the Carmen suite were assembled by Mr. Ozawa himself.

Happy Listening!

Georges BIZET (1838-1875)
L' Arlésienne Suite No.1 (from the incidental music), op. 23bis
L' Arlésienne Suite No.2 (assembled by Ernest Guirard, 1879), GB 121b
Carmen Suites for orchestra No.1 and 2 (assembled by Ernest Guirard, 1885-86) Selections
  • Les Toréadors - Act I, Prélude (bars 1-119)
  • Prélude - Act I, Prélude (bars 121–48)
  • Aragonaise - Entr'acte before Act IV
  • Intermezzo - Entr'acte before Act III
  • Habanera - Act I, Aria (Carmen): L'amour est un oiseau rebelle
  • Danse Bohème - Act II, Gypsy Dance: Les tringles des sistres tintaient

Orchestre National de France
Seiji Ozawa, conducting
Label: Angel Records – DS-538096
Format: Vinyl, LP
Recorded: 25 & 26 June 1983, Salle Wagram, Paris

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