Don Carlo at Unter den Linden
April 22, 2008
* Notes *
The penultimate performance this season of Don Carlo at Staatsoper Unter den Linden was last Monday. The opera was presented in Italian as four acts, which does not start off with Don Carlo and Elisabetta meeting in Fontainebleau. Philipp Himmelmann's production included many scrims and walls, designed by Johannes Leiacker. The set made the scene changes smooth and simple, but the set changed more than strictly necessary and the constant movement was distracting. However, this was nothing compared to the ridiculous stage directions. When Elisabetta ironically suggests patricide to Carlo with the words "Compi l'opra a svenar corri il padre," she started aggressively ironing napkins. The auto de fé scene at the end of Act II was terrifying, but the condemned did not need to be ducted taped as the orchestra played, it was much too loud. The scene was shocking, as the five being executed were completely naked and vulnerable. Having them drawn by the feet upwards with ropes was in keeping with the plot, but once the penitents started spinning themselves around like aerialists, it just became absurd rather than horrifying. But the most egregious part of the staging was when Rodrigo sang his last aria in Act III, "O Carlo, ascolta." As he is dying, he begs Carlo to take his hand, and in this production, Carlo sits in a chair and turns away. It is utterly inhuman, given that Rodrigo is his best friend, who has sacrificed himself for Carlo.
I saw this opera last week with a somewhat different cast, René Pape as Filippo and Andrew Richards as Don Carlo. Peter Rose was certainly loud enough as Filippo this time around, his tone is rich and warm. However, his performance was fairly bland until Act III Scene 1, when he sang about how Elisabetta never loved him. Tenor Franco Farina likewise was not as strong as Richards, there was something not quite right with the famous duet "Dio, che nell' alma infondere." Farina was both flat and sharp and his voice lacks heft. Alfredo Daza was fine as Rodrigo, though he too was overwhelmed by the orchestra at times. Kurt Rydl was a shaky as the Inquisitore and difficult to hear. In the absence of René Pape, Norma Fantini (Elisabetta) was the strongest of the cast, she sounded in tune, though her vibrato is a bit wide. She had some lovely moments, especially in "Toi qui sus le néant" at the end. Mezzo Ildiko Komlosi was tiresome as Eboli, she gasped with every breath and was entirely out of tune in her last aria "O don fatale," as she curses her fatal beauty.
* Tattling *
Instead of having an announcement about turning off cellular phones, the Staatsoper Berlin just plays a recording of a ring. It is convincingly real if one has not heard it before and simple, not needing any translation. On this particular evening the audience was embarrassingly sparse, though there was a fair amount of whispering. The third tier was still incredibly warm, despite not being stuffed with that many bodies.