Anticipating this Saturday afternoon’s Met broadcast, “Trove Thursday” presents as a preview a intriguingly unconventional all-star performance of Bizet’s Carmen from Covent Garden featuring Christa Ludwig, Jon Vickers, Ileana Cotrubas and Justino Diaz conducted by Jesus Lopez-Cobos.
Like her frequent colleague Leonie Rysanek, Ludwig rarely sang with the Royal Opera. Her official debut in 1976 as Carmen (she had previously only subbed there for a single Amneris in 1968) must have seemed an odd choice at the time. She never sang the role at the Met, but perhaps that isn’t surprising given that during the mid-70s Régine Crespin was wowing New York audiences with her unique gypsy.
However, Carmen did feature often throughout Ludwig’s career: she recorded the opera in German in the early 1960s and sang it 28 times at her home theater, the Vienna Staatsoper—half of them during the 1970s alone, the final one just months after this London production.
Don José was a frequent role for Vickers and he starred in an opulent film (which I remember being overwhelmed by when I saw it at a local movie house at around age 12) opposite Grace Bumbry directed and conducted by Herbert von Karajan.
He too sang it in Vienna where his first José in that house in 1959 also featured Martha Mödl (!), Teresa Stich-Randall (!!) and Walter Berry. His final Met José occurred in 1971 so this London performance most likely contains his last thoughts on the role. Cotrubas’s final Met role thirty years ago was Micaela, while Diaz was a frequent Escamillo at the Met and elsewhere.
Royal Opera House, Covent Garden,
March 25, 1976
Carmen: Christa Ludwig
Micaela: Ileana Cotrubas
Frasquita: Elizabeth Robson
Mercedes: Anne Wilkens
Don Jose: Jon Vickers
Escamillo: Justino Diaz
Dancariro: John Dobson
Morales: Thomas Allen
Zuniga: Forbes Robinson
Conductor: Jesus Lopez Cobos
“Trove Thursday” offerings can be downloaded via the audio-player included on this page. Just click on the icon of a square with an arrow pointing downward and the resulting mp3 file will appear in your download directory.