OP1425. CARMEN, recorded 1928, w.Cohen Cond. l'Opéra-Comique Ensemble; Raymonde Visconti, Georges Thill, Marthe Nespoulous, Louis Guénot, etc. (Canada) 2-St Laurent Studio YSL 78-020. Transfers by Yves St Laurent.
"This offers us a welcome opportunity to experience CARMEN as it was performed by an all-French company, and what a benefit that is! These artists know by nature that the text is as important as the music: all the principals play with the words in a way quite lost in an age of international casts, singers who have seldom if ever worked as an ensemble.
Cohen was Columbia's regular conductor of French opera at the time, and as in other works, completely enters into the spirit of the work in hand (oddly, the 'Flower Song' was recorded separately and conducted by Philippe Gaubert). It may well be that the set was built around the great French tenor, Georges Thill, who sings the role in a way it has seldom been sung since. Words and music are perfectly wedded in his delivery. His voice is a strong lyric tenor bordering on the heroic. He is as adept at singing sweetly, as in the duet with Micaela, and then truly forceful but never forced in the finales to Acts 3 and 4.
Visconti at first seems a rather matter-of-fact Carmen: the first-act solos are not sufficiently characterised. But then this slightly casual reading seems deliberate: the 'Card Scene' is sung accurately and with a real sense of foreboding, and in the grand finale she defies José with magnificent courage and insouciance. Nespoulos was a popular soprano in Paris and elsewhere at the time: her Micaela is sung in that clear, clean, light, secure tone then favoured in this and so many soprano roles. Guénot is a personable and vivid Escamillo. The smaller parts are well taken, Zuniga and Morales apparently by members of the company."
- Alan Blyth, OPERA
"Unlike every other such CARMEN, this one bypasses emphasis on the title role to revolve around not Carmen but Don José as the dominant interpreter. While unusual, this seems entirely appropriate while Carmen's character remains constant, it is Don José whose degeneration is the driving force behind the narrative. Here, the star is Georges Thill, generally considered the greatest French tenor of the 20th century, and indeed he presents a convincing depiction that is both heroic and vulnerable by singing his role in a bel canto style of powerful yet tender fluid ease and extraordinary sheer musicality. Both dialogue and recitatives are omitted. The orchestra reportedly was that of the Opéra-Comique, with which the conductor and the other leads all were closely associated. While perhaps overshadowed by Thill, Visconti has a sweet but rich voice that's modest but winning, and Nespoulpous and Guénot portray their roles convincingly."
- Peter Gutmann
“Each of these disks, from Canadian engineer Yves St Laurent… [feature] St Laurent's natural transfer – made without filtering, like all his dubbings – it is easy to listen to, despite the surface noise.”
- Tully Potter, CLASSICAL RECORD QUARTERLY, Summer, 2011