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Robert Benson, March 2011

Abbado in a brightly festive mood can be observed on this DVD of the Berlin Philharmonic’s 1997 New Year’s Gala, a rather odd program generally based on Carmen. It begins with minimal highlights from the opera featuring Anne Sophie Von Otter, seen and heard to far greater advantage than she was in the wretched 2003 David McVicar production. Roberto Alagna is Don José and Bryn Terfel Escamillo, assisted by choruses. Each of the principals has but one aria. Pletnev is the sterling soloist in the Rachmaninoff Paganini Rhapsody, Gil Shaham gives a spectacular reading of Sarasate’s Carmen Fantasy, and Abbado and the famed orchestra are at their virtuoso best throughout. The stereo sound is adequate, video quality excellent. This is worth owning to experience a splendid concert conducted by Abbado.

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