Well, it ain't Phantom, and it isn't even Andrew Lloyd Webber, in fact. It's Bizet, and one of my favorite arias of all time! (But I'll be honest, the first place I heard it was in The Aristocats...) I present to you, "Habanera!"
First of all, isn't that amazing? Covent Garden in 1962? As for Maria, she is known as the definitive Carmen, but I'm still not so sure about her. Not to sound snarky, but I feel the same about her as I do about Sarah Brightman. I think she has a beautiful voice, but I don't always like what she does with it. Her diction is unclear at times and she occasionally has "Kermit-the-frog-itis," if that makes any sense. The music sounds trapped! It's not flying and soaring the way it ought to! I like the control of her high notes, but it feels like too much control for me. Again, I want to hear those babies fly!
I have an mp3 of this performance, and I LOVE it! Such a full, rich voice, and a gorgeous rendition! Again, I just wish there was better diction here, as I would love to understand the lyrics...I always want to sing along when I hear Angela, and there's just the right kind of snap in her voice that drives home the character for me, yet enough ease of movement to make you understand why she's such a troublemaker. So sexy! Her refrains sell it for me. The precision of the softer, more restrained lines, and then the power immediately after. That's what I was missing from Maria Callas!
Anna Caterina Antonacci
How about a video from an actual performance this time? I think it gives a better idea of what Carmen is all about. Not the opera, but the gypsy...how free, untamed, and harsh. Which also sums up Anna Caterina's voice for me. Free and harsh. She makes it sound easiest of the three, which is how it should sound. And finally! Impeccable diction! What I'm not such a fan of in her voice is how grating it sounds at times. As for her expressions...well, operatic, to be sure!
So, there we have the three contenders, with pros and cons for each of them, and it's time to pick a winner. And I think I'll go with...
Angela Gheorghiu! What do you think?