Very often, a vintage recording affords only historical interest; sometimes there is great artistic merit also involved. The 1928 recording of Georges Bizet’s “Carmen,” now on the Divine Art label (27809), has a little of each.
First of all, it is by no means complete. With a running time of less than two hours, this production omits all of the dialogue, leaving only the musical selections, many of which are abridged to fit onto a side of a 78 rpm disc.
Then, too, the singers, with one exception, merely sing their roles with very little attempt at characterization. The Carmen of Raymonde Visconti is small-voiced and lyrical where it should be dramatic. The Escamillo of Louis Guenot is a bit more dramatic but still a dull potato. There is not much any soprano can do with Michaela, nor can Marthe Nespoulos on this recording. The supporting roles are in no way exceptional.
However, it is the Don Jose of the nearly legendary tenor George Thill that is the major attraction of this set. It is so good to hear that role sung by a Frenchman for starters, and one with that Thill thrill for good measure. He is what gives value to this set and why I can recommend it for those who are interested in this wonderful tenor.