orchestra and their conductor, Franz Welser-Möst, were truly the
leading protagonists in this new production of Don Carlo by Daniele
On this evening not only was the playing immaculate throughout, but
it was infused with every imaginable emotion in accord with the dramatic
demands of the plot. In general, the tempi were highly dynamic (particularly
when the chorus was involved), but with sufficient leeway to allow the
soloists to expand their phrasing, as appropriate.
With sets by Angelo Linzalata, costumes (in essence, traditional) by
Carla Teti and lighting by Alessandro Carletti the overall effect is
inoffensive at worst and rather bland at best. A familiar system of
panels offering flexible apertures as required lends an appropriately
stark atmosphere which functions best in the plot's more intimate moments.
The grand ensembles and the auto-da-fé scene develop an
almost chamber-like effect, failing the dimension of Verdi's score and
the potential of this enormous stage. The interaction between the cast
comes across as little more than standard and rather lacking in inspiration
- but at least avoids adulteration of the thematic material and appears
to allow the soloists logical development within the overall framework
of the plot.
The 1884 Milan version in four acts was favoured for this production.
The cast undoubtedly ranks in today's upper echelons, but brought some
surprises, both positive and negative.
Luciana D'Intino (Eboli) is equipped with all the necessary attributes
to fulfil Verdi's demands in this role. Her range, dynamic capabilities,
and flexibility leave no desire unfulfilled. Both her arias were flawlessly
sung and taken with aplomb, and she otherwise well tempered her voice
to integrate with the remaining cast. The character appeared a little
matronly and might have benefited from a little more glamour in the
costume department, but from the vocal viewpoint this was a tour-de-force
Krassimira Stoyanova's attractive Elisabeth boasts a solid lyric soprano
with reliable technique and sufficient metal to ride the more dramatic
moments in the score with ease (in addition to touches of an Italianate
chest register which she uses to good effect) as well as the ability
to seamlessly pare back her tone above the stave to underscore her palette
of colours as required. "Tu che le vanita" was unusually veristic in
approach and expressed an interestingly passionate development in character
to nicely round off her interpretation.
René Pape - impressive in stage presence as well as in vocal
dynamics - nevertheless lacks the ideal Basso cantante, and indeed perhaps
the "anima" for Philip II. The great Act 2 monologue failed to move
or captivate, whereas his Act 1 duet with Posa did impress in its drama
and timing, as did the interaction with The Grand Inquisitor. While
Pape may be one of the best in today's stables (and supreme in certain
roles), he alas fails to eclipse memories of some illustrious predecessors
in this opera.
As Posa, Simon Keenlyside makes very intelligent use of his resources,
phrasing well, and creating a truly credible and sympathetic figure.
His death scene was one of the highlights of the evening.
Eric Halfvarson brings an unusually effective dimension to the Inquisitor
with ample tone and a chillingly-metallic timbre which leaves no doubt
as to his power and authority.
Valentina Nafornita, bell-toned and accurate, is a touching Voce dal
In the title role, Ramon Vargas enjoys many fine moments throughout
the evening - and indeed, here creates one of his most credible stage
figures, in part through his demeanour but also through his clever pointing
of words in conjunction with a youthful lyrical timbre. Unfortunately,
that very lyricism presents unfortunate shortcomings when faced with
Carlos' more dramatic outbursts. It is really Vargas' commendable technique
which saves the day, but this remains a borderline role for him, without
All-in-all, an enjoyable evening and one worth experiencing if only
for the pleasure of such magnificent orchestral playing. A revival is
scheduled in the coming season.