Elīna Garanča's Habanera

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Natural recording artists -- those able to focus a phrase for the microphone -- are rare, particularly when it comes to opera singers. Yet anyone fortunate enough to have heard the Latvian mezzo-soprano Elīna Garanča in her recent Metropolitan Opera appearances as Carmen will know what to expect from "Habanera," her latest recital album. Featuring a variety of gypsy roles from opera, operetta and song, the recording is our Album of the Week.

At 34, Garanča has been on a steep ascent for several years, thanks to an unusually rich, creamy voice that she has learned to use to great effect. It doesn’t hurt that this alluring Northern European blonde can also look -- and act -- the part. Offstage, her look gravitates towards the outrageous, as a promotional video from her label suggests (below).

Regardless, Garanča makes this imaginative and varied program come to life, which includes several selections from her career-making role as Bizet’s femme fatale including the “Seguidilla” and two versions of the “Habanera:” first, the one everyone knows, and then Bizet’s original version, which is completely different, both heavier and more energetic. These display her bright upper register, especially the "Seguidilla," where she interpolates a flashy yet thrilling high B.

Garanča also casts a wide stylistic net on this album, moving well beyond Spanish composers. There's an aria from a Hungarian (Lehar's Zigeunerliebe), an Irishman (Michael William Balfe's The Bohemian Girl) and an American (“I am easily assimilated” from Bernstein’s Candide), the latter of which may be a bit of a stretch thematically. Her voice particularly shines in Cancion del amor by guitarist Jose Maria Gallardo Del Rey, who also joins her in a smoldering lullaby by de Falla. Elsewhere she receives lively and sensitive support from the RAI Symphony Orchestra led by her conductor husband, Karel Mark Chichon.

Garanča can be heard several times in New York this fall – including in nine more Met performances as Carmen, starting November 4, and at Carnegie Hall in a concert performance of Masenet’s La Navarraise with the Opera Orchestra of New York on October 25.

In the meantime, check out this video and tell us what you think. We'll be reading your comments all this week.

Elīna Garanča
Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della RAI/Karel Mark Chichon
Deutsche Grammophon


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Comments [14]

Amy from New York City

I'm with Eileen above--the video does nothing for me. Kind of dopey. Looks like she's romping around in a Tribeca loft and then suddenly finds herself in the meadows of Spain--or something.

In fact, the video doesn't really do her justice. I saw her last night with Opera Orchestra of NY and she was wonderful.

Oct. 26 2010 08:36 AM
Owa from Bronx, NY

There is nothing like a woman and no one like Carmen

Oct. 24 2010 07:23 PM
Kenneth Bennett Lane from Lake Hiawatha, NJ

The seductive, insinuative acting of the sultry Elena Garanca, at the Met Opera singing/portraying Carmen for all its worth is sure to continue to dominate her colleagues in that role as Rise Stevens [Steenberg, originally] monopolized that role for generations. She does not have to over-emphasize her sexuality with body language which sexuality IS obvious and stimulating to our male imaginations. Her vocal timbre is alluring and in itselfd speaks to her confidence, her musicality and intelligence. She has a great future, and she is only 34 years old. So, hold onto our hats, we will be throwing them skyward in approbation of her singular gifts for years to come. As for her Carmen, one word says it all, OLE !!!

Oct. 23 2010 04:09 PM
Wayne Larson from Chicago

Garanča is what Hollywood would call a bankable star. Voice, looks, confidence, poise, aggressive sexiness and the ability to twitch a vixenish smile on command at the corners of her mouth - they all combine to captivate audiences in general and to turn grown men into foolish little boys. The pace of her new album releases is up to yearly now, nearly unheard of these days in operatic circles and on par with Taylor Swift. No wonder then that DG is dishing up 3-1/2 minutes of eye candy to promote this latest. There's more gold in this production than just Elena's tresses!

Oct. 21 2010 12:23 AM

Garanca is better looking naturally than in her Carmen makeup, etc. Is someone packaging her as the next Netrebko? It would be interesting to package Garanca with Netrebko and Rolando Villazon in something like La Boheme. Garanca has a great voice, and her beauty is a plus!

Oct. 20 2010 05:30 PM
Ben Eichler from Brooklyn

I don't think this is from "Carmen"

Oct. 20 2010 04:44 PM
Eileen from New York

Lovely voice - but this video just does not do it for me! Carmen was a little vixen and this viedo is out and out sex! I'm sure the men will enjoy it.

Oct. 20 2010 04:16 PM
Neil from New York, NY

This woman has it all. Thank you for letting me know about her and I wish her the best! She'll make opera desirable for younger audiences... Thank you...

Oct. 20 2010 02:13 PM
Barbara McNear from New York

I'm of the generation (I'm 71) that you might think would be negative on this. But, I loved it -- I loved the music, enjoyed her singing but most of all loved her ability to deliver both emotion and drama. And, she is beautiful.

Naomi, I enjoy hearing you always, but I think you were a little off base comparing the beam in the video to a pole (as in pole dance). But, we don't have to agree!

Oct. 19 2010 09:45 PM
Orchard Lady

Who ever heard of a blonde Carmen. Hokie

Oct. 19 2010 02:44 PM
John Feaver from Oakhurst, NJ

She is clearly adept at the visual side of performance. One could easily substitute a pop tune and air it in MTV. Not sure I want my classical music quite as in-your-face sultry as all that...

Oct. 19 2010 02:18 PM
Dirk Digler from UES

She brings back memories of another Carmen from the past: Rise Stevens. I like the video. Miss Stevens also recognized the power of visual media in her work in Hollywood.

Oct. 19 2010 08:15 AM
carol blades from Miami

Silly video...but as I said after I saw the Met HD broadcast of "Carmen" last winter, she is Babe-licious! Fabulous voice, too!

Oct. 18 2010 05:54 PM
Scott Rose

Admiro a ella muchisimo como artista, y se nota que se esta' divertiendo bastante aqui. Por lo de la naturaleza comercial del video, no puedo hacer comentario que valga. Pero, para mi, le harian falta unos toquecitos mas a su sabiduria del espanol, antes de atreverse a una cosa semejante. Su canto no es nada malo; al contrario. Sin embargo, escuchando esta muesta, me da l'impresion de que esta' llevando la esencia espanola de la musica como si fuera una prenda, en vez de llevarla en la sangre como se debe. No obstante todo eso, ya queria escuchar el resto del disco. Como dije arriba, ella por cierto es una gran artista de la lirica.

Oct. 18 2010 03:31 PM

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The Albums of the Week are compelling new recordings that we spotlight every week. These include creative repertoire choices, engaging musical personalities and artistic statements that stand out from the pack. You can hear the Albums of the Week throughout the day and evening on WQXR.