Tausendundeine Nacht, aber nicht.
O Rendetemi La Speme

Sì, piango, ma t'ammiro.

BsodoncarloIf all the operas at the Bayerische Staatsoper were as good as their current production of Don Carlo, I would never leave the Nationaltheater. It wasn't perfect, but all the singers were good, and Zubin Mehta is a fine conductor.

They chose to do their own version of Verdi's Don Carlo, something in-between the full five act version, and the later four act version. Five acts, and about 3 hours and 40 minutes of music, plus a 40 minute intermission.

The staging was clever, of course, the person in charge was Jürgen Rose with the help of Franziska Severin. They used a large room with many doors that could be moved back and forth quietly. The doors were a little loud though, when they closed. The main feature of the room was a huge crucifix on the left, not flush against the wall, but leaning on it at an angle so that Christ is at three-quarters. In the middle of the floor was a stairway into it, that could be covered.

I found their scrim with a huge cross on it a bit overbearing, especially when they projected a the image of a very poorly executed drawing portraying one of Murillo's St. Francis paintings, which happened every once in a while when the action moved to the front of the stage, and they hid the room so they could rearrange things.

The furniture of the set was also somewhat obnoxious. A flock of IKEA metal chairs were used for certain scenes, at least a few were tossed about.

The choreography was simple, not fantastic. Don Carlo threw himself to the ground several times, only once did he seem like a dying fish, so I would say that Sergej Larin did an adequate job at the choreography he was given. The first scene of the opera has Elisabetta di Valois walking in the woods of Fontainebleu very slowly and stiffly, and this often looked awkward. Also the scene when Princess Eboli sings Nei giardin del bello, Act II Scene 2 in this version (Act I Scene 2 in the final version of 1867), the ladies of the court dance about in Flamenco style with shawls and fans. They did not do this well, and it seemed reductive, and orientalist, even.

I did enjoy the procession in Act III Scene 2, they had people dressed as Jesus and Mary in various scenes of the Passion. The costumes in general were quite beautiful, like something out of Velázquez, or more accurately, Coello. I'm also partial to certain flashiness, this scene also had the pyres that are lit at the end, and an actual fire was set. The choreography did hit a low point at the beginning of this scene when one of the chorus members lost her sandal. The manner in which it was retrieved was not discreet enough.

Our friend Paata Burchuladze, Osmin in Entführung, was much better suited in the part of the Grand Inquisitor, as the range needed was not as great.

I was also glad to hear Ayk Martiorossien as the friar, as it is always nice to see an Armenian on stage, especially one heard before in Arshak II as Nerses. His voice is wonderful, dark and haunting.

Incidentally, Tebaldo was sung by a woman from Xinjiang (the Uighur autonomous region, also known as East Turkestan). Dilbèr's part was small, but she seemed adequate.

Soprano Miriam Gauci was good as Elisabetta, her voice is not distinct. On the other hand, Luciana D'Intino, mezzosoprano who sang Princess Eboli, was the evening's favorite. Her voice started off occasionally nasal, but otherwise very beautiful and full.

Baritone Paolo Gavanelli was convincing as Rodrigo, his death scene was moving, and his duet with Larin at the end of Act I Scene 1 was one of the best performances of the evening. Another best was the aria at the beginning of Act IV sung by Filippo II (bass Matti Salminen).

My reason for seeing this performance at all was Sergej Larin, since I had heard him as Samson at San Francisco during the 2001-2002 season. His tenor voice struck me as the same, impassioned, slightly raveled, yet there is something light about it.

Verdi isn't Mozart, but he's not so bad. I liked this music more than his Otello, but it might have to do with the conducting, which was somewhat sluggish in Otello, I was told. I wouldn't know. Also, it is perhaps easier to swallow the idea of a Schiller play that I don't know as a libretto, than a Shakespeare one I do know as one.