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Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)
Don Carlo, Opera in Four Acts, sung in Italian. (1884 revision)
Philip, King of Spain – Michele Pertusi (bass); Don Carlo, Infante of Spain – JosÚ Bros (ten); Rodrigo,Marquis of Posa – Vladimir Stoyanov (bar); The Grand Inquisitor – Levgen Orlov (bass); Elisabeth de Valois, Philip's Queen – Serena Farnocchia (sop); Princess Eboli, Elisabeth's lady-in-waiting – Marianne Cornetti (mezzo); Tebaldo, Elisabeth's page – Lavinia Bibi (sop); The Count of Lerma, Gregory Bonfaatti (ten); An Old Monk – Simon Lim (bass); A Voice from Heaven – Marina Bucciarelli (sop)
Filharmonica Arturo Toscanini. Chorus of Teatro Regio, Parma/Daniel Oren
Director, Cesare Lievi
Set and costume Designer, Maurizo Bal˛
Video Director, Tiziano Mancini
rec. 2016
Sound Formats, PCM Stereo 2.0/DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. Picture, 108160 – 1 BD 50
Notes in English and Italian
Subtitles in Italian (original language), English, French, German, Japanese and Korean
Also on DVD 37776
DYNAMIC Blu-ray 57776 [182 mins]

The original five-act form of Don Carlos was premiered at the Paris OpÚra on March 11th 1867 and was only modestly received. The premiere of the Italian translation, as Don Carlo, fared little better. Both the Italian public and theatre managements found the opera overlong and were slow to take it to their hearts. It was not long before the act three ballet and then the Fontainebleau act were dropped altogether. The arrival in Italy of the shorter and grander Aida in 1871 added to the difficulty of the opera’s length. After a failure in Naples in the same year, Verdi made his OWN first alterations to the score for a revival under his personal supervision. Still the fortunes of the opera disappointed the composer and as early as 1875 he began seriously to consider shortening the work himself. Because of other demands he did not begin serious work on this until 1882, concluding his revision as a four act opera the following year, with the premiere at La Scala having to wait until 1884. This new shorter four-act revision involved much rewording to explain the sequence of events and maintain narrative and dramatic coherence. Verdi’s own reworking involved the removal of the Fontainebleau act, the ballet and the Inquisitors’ chorus in act five as well as other detailed changes. The full story of the genesis of Don Carlos, and its various forms, is told in detail in Part 4 of my Verdi Conspectus. The premiere of the new four-act Don Carlo, which has become known as the 1884 version, was a great success at La Scala and featured the tenor Tamagno who created Otello three years later.

After the 1884 performances of the four-act Don Carlo, a friend asked Verdi if he did not regret the loss of so much music from the original score. He had already told his friend that the new version had “more concision, more muscle” and added that, “those who complained about the loss of so much beautiful music from the first act quite possibly did not notice its existence before”. But others were less sure and performances were given in Modena, in Italian, in 1886, claimed to be with Verdi’s permission and which reintroduced the original act one into the 1884 revision. It was in this five-act form, albeit with various minor cuts, that Don Carlo was launched to the post Second World War operatic public in a production by Visconti and conducted by Giulini at London’s Covent Garden on May 12th 1958 (see review).

Staging such an opera, even in the short four-act version, poses problems for the normal sized opera house or company. The scale and diversity of the plot can involve significant expense to a small regional company.

This present production can be seen as being in direct lineage with those seminal performances, but with the minor cuts opened to give a true representation of the final version that Verdi himself knew and which has come to be known as the 1886 Modena Version. In their recordings for the Verdi bicentenary of what they described as The Complete Verdi Operas, Unitel Classics counted only twenty six operas and omitted the named major re-writes of I Lombardi and Stiffelio whist basing the large majority of the recordings at the Teatro Regio at Parma. The Teatro Regio was opened during Verdi’s lifetime, in 1829, as the Nuovo Teatro Ducale and is regarded as a honeypot of Verdi operas and his home theatre, its audience feared even by great singers as to their reception in the house. For that series the label used a five-act version, sung in Italian derived from the Teatro Comunale di Modena. This production is shared with Genoa, Lisbon and Tenerife with Director Cesare Lievi taking a traditional view and his designer adding stark visual simplicity, but effectiveness, in the sets.

Whilst the singing cast might not be of the highest international standing the presence of native Italians is welcome in terms of vocal expression and the marrying of acting to the words. Particularly notable is the role debut of Michele Pertusi as the agonized king, father and lover. Whilst physical stature is a great aid to histrionic realization on the operatic stage, his assumption throughout, either in his agonized act three soliloquy ‘Ella giammai m’amo’, to his battles with the Grand Inquisitor, sets his vocal and acted realization as superior to any other on stage in this performance and doubtless we shall see his assumption at major international houses before long as Ferruccio Furlanetto’s dominance of the role in recent years comes to an end. As his counsellor, saviour, general dogsbody and fellow bass, Grand Inquisitor Levgen Orlov is not of his class vocally, at times being somewhat blustery. Of the two male would-be saviours of Flanders, Vladimir Stoyanov as Rodrigo, Marquis of Posa, has a more natural feel for the role vocally and as actor than JosÚ Bros has. The latter has to strain for the higher tessitura at times and tends to oversing, his tone becoming rather white and unpleasant; both act with conviction.

Of the two royal ladies Marianne Cornetti as Eboli sings well in the Garden Scene, her warm mezzo full of colour and expression. Regrettably, in ‘O, don fatale, o don crudel’ she overdoes the histrionics a little, and there is a squally moment or so vocally. None the less I was impressed by her overall performance. Likewise I enjoyed Serena Farnocchia’s sung and acted assumption of the tragic queen who is deprived of her true love as part of a political settlement. Poor Elisabeth de Valois ends up in a foreign country tied to the father of her true love, having all the responsibilities of state that are involved, whilst still being in close proximity to him and aware of his feelings for her. She has not the vocal spinto strength of CaballÚ, but her acted interpretation is first class, whilst vocally she never lets the side down. Her act four ‘Tu che le vanitÓ’ is an acted and sung tour de force, a joy to watch and listen to in all its vocal nuances. The other minor parts are all well taken whist on the rostrum Daniel Orin conducts a vibrant and dramatic performance weaving his way between Verdi’s diverse demands. I would be delighted to see and hear a production of this quality by one of the UK’s regional companies.
Robert J Farr



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