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“Mon amoureux!”

March 7, 2007

After bringing back a pair of Wharfedale Diamond 9.1 speakers (11+ kg in total), I moved the whole system, including CD player and AMP, to my “bedroom”. I haven’t decided whether I should buy some speaker stands, so I just placed each speaker on top of a box of books — at least getting some use of these lesfic books, while AMP and CDP on the floor. Ya, I know, it’s not good for the sound, but I didn’t want to fuss over them too much; in the end, music is the most important (right, I had been telling myself that for 10+ years). The true reason was that I wanted to see how the sound was before putting my money on a pair of solid speaker stands.

Anyway, everything went well, as far as music was concerned. I spent more time in listening to music than before since moving to here (it’s a shame that I didn’t for the last two years). Few days ago, I played “Callas: The Legend” (2CDs) and was shocked to the clarity of the music and songs sung by Callas. Was my new system so good that I could tell the lyrics are in French? Of course, I know Bizet was a French. What I meant was that I could understand some of words Callas sang, clearly, e.g. “Mon amoureux” in “Près des remparts de Séville”.
I immediately went to get my the only Carmen CD (highlights only) performed by Troyanos. First played the most famous “L’amour est un oiseau rebelle”. Just the same as in my memory. It seemed that Troyanos sang the lyrics with something in her mouth. I played the other two, comparing with those in “Callas: The Legend”. Yes, the problem wasn’t my ex-portable CD player/cheap speakers clouded the sound but Troyanos!No wonder, no wonder that I didn’t like this CD back in the old days and I hadn’t listened to it for a long time. Why on earth did I choose this CD (Troyanos/Domigo/Solti)? Next day, I googled for the best version of Carmen and I knew why. According to this site,

“Three versions vie for the top rating on record: de los Angeles/Beecham (EMI), Troyanos/Solti (Decca) et Berganza/Abbado (Deutsche Grammophon). For some, the last distinguishes itself by a slim margin for its stylistic rightness (Abbado’s lively and well chiseled direction) and the distinguée Carmen of Teresa Berganza.”

I guessed that’s probably the common agreement. When I was just a newbie in classical music 10+ years ago, I picked up what most people would recommended and a selection CD was good enough for a newbie who wasn’t into opera much (and now think of it, it’s fortunate that I chose the highlights instead of the complete set).

I tried to get the versions of Berganza & de los Angeles (note two Spanish sopranos) for comparison, since the aforementioned site didn’t include Callas’s version in their choices for Carmen. The university library had de los Angeles/Beecham complete set but no Berganza. The de los Angeles/Beecham was recorded in 1960, slightly earlier than Callas’s (1964) and Gedda was José in both recordings. The voice of de los Angeles was smoother than Callas and her performance of Carmen was also better than Troyanos’s — at least, I could tell some words she sang.

Here is a short clip of Callas’s “Près des remparts de Séville”.

PS: I may post some clips for your comparison, so you’d know I’m not making thing up in Troyanos’s voice. No offense, but her voice is just not my type of Carmen.

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