OP0103. CARMEN (in German), recorded 1908, w.Seidler-Winkler Cond. Berlin Hofoper Ensemble; Emmy Destinn, Ottilie Metzger, Karl Jörn, Minnie Nast, Hermann Bachmann, Marie Dietrich, etc.; Pilz Cond. Emmy Destinn & Rudolf Berger: LOHENGRIN - Act III, Vorspiel, Bridal Chorus and Bridal Chamber Scene (Wagner), recorded 1908. 2-Marston 52022. Transfers by Ward Marston. Long out-of-print, Final Copy! - 638335201221
“This fascinating German language CARMEN was recorded by the Gramophone and Typewriter Company in Berlin during the week of 14 October 1908. One of the first efforts to record a complete opera, it has always been known to collectors as ‘Destinn’s Carmen’. Her unique voice and vivid, exuberant personality completely dominate the recording. This performance, of course, bears little resemblance to Bizet’s original opéra comique which, by definition, made its extensive use of spoken dialogue. But, from the beginning, CARMEN traveled well, and the German language seems to sharpen the edge of the drama. While the harsh, somewhat throaty sounds lack the insinuating subtlety of the French, the opera sustains its intensity.
In this performance Micaëla is sung by Minnie Nast, Don José by Karl Jörn, and Hermann Bachmann is the stentorian Escamillo. In lesser roles are such notables as Marie Dietrich as Frasquita, and Julius Lieban as Le Dancaïre. Ottilie Metzger is the Carmen in a couple of Act 2 ensembles as Destinn was overseas when the scenes were re-recorded. Bruno Seidler–Winkler was the conductor.”
- Harold Bruder, Program Notes
“From her first syllable, it's abundantly clear who's in charge – Destinn constantly distends the rhythms to her dramatic needs while the orchestra scrambles to keep pace and her ‘Séguidille’ is a command, not an invitation. Throughout, she sings in a bravura, grand manner, opting for higher alternative notes indicated in the score and adding others of her own, even at the expense of disrupting the familiar melodies, especially in the ‘Chanson bohème’. Her headstrong personality was contagious – Jörn jacks up his final note of ‘Halte-la’ as well. The powerful top register in which she consistently dwells paints a portrait of arrogant youth, although when she does descend into a chest voice, as in the central portion of ‘Mêlons! Coupons’, the impact is arresting in its dark foreboding. The men sing with great authority, and Nast's ravishingly lovely voice, especially in her third act air, helps to humanize the stock character of Michaëla. Jörn and Nast meld beautifully in their first act duet to affirm an affection he would rather forget, while the roughness of the ensembles suggests spontaneity (rather than mere under-rehearsing). Beyond its historical importance and psychological insights, this first recorded Carmen attests to the centrality of the main character – and the importance of its interpreter's characterization.”
- Peter Gutmann
“Czech soprano Emmy Destinn’s stature as one of the greatest singers of the 20th century’s first decades could hardly be more substantiated than by her portrayal of Carmen in the popular opera’s very first recording, made in 1908. Sung in German, the slightly cut performance was issued on 18 78-rpm discs, all of which were sold separately rather than as a unit. Destinn stands out from the rest of the cast for her vibrant, dramatically involved, and superbly vocalized traversal of the title role. She takes lots of liberties, stretching a phrase past the point of contextual logic, or interpolating traditional yet unwritten note alterations (the octave displacements in the second strain of the ‘Gypsy Song’, for instance). But it doesn’t matter.”
- Jed Distler, ClassicsToday.com