I've just been listening to the LP of the 'recreated' Carmen
recording of 1970, which used the original dialogue and restored the sections cut after the first production in 1875 -- while attempting to follow it using the only libretto I own, from the boxed set recorded by Maria Callas which contains the standard grand-opera version with recitative! My French is good enough to enable me to follow the majority of the additional spoken dialogue without the transcript, but as soon as the extra sung sections kick in I can barely catch a word of that: without the record-sleeve summary I wouldn't have had the faintest idea what was going on there :-(
The only significant cut, plot-wise, seems to have been to the knife-fight between José and Escamillo: originally Escamillo beats José easily (which I think
, if I understood the snatches of lyric correctly, is attributed to the professional skills of the former as a toreador -- which would make sense) and José, infuriated by his rival's refusal to take the fight seriously, demands a second round which he wins by a fluke when Escamillo slips. In the later version they are evenly matched until Escamillo's accident, which does change the dynamic between the two somewhat.
However, replacing the dialogue by snippets of recitative in order to turn Carmen
into a proper 'grand opera' was definitely not to the advantage of the piece, alas. ( Read more... )