Don Carlo

SF Opera's Don Carlo

_B5A5263* Notes *
The latest Don Carlo (Valentina Simi as Countess of Aremberg, Ana María Martínez as Elisabetta, Nadia Krasteva as Princess Eboli, René Pape as King Philip II, and Mariusz Kwiecień as Rodrigo in Act II Scene 2; photograph by Cory Weaver) that opened at San Francisco Opera this afternoon is impeccably cast from top to bottom. Michael Fabiano is a brilliant Don Carlo, with powerful high notes. Ana María Martínez sings Elisabetta with icy purity and strength. Her formidable vibrato is controlled.

René Pape is completely believable as King Philip II, his rich tones sounded mature if not slightly weathered. Mariusz Kwiecień made for a warm, sympathetic Rodrigo, his famous duet with Fabiano in Act II Scene 1 ("Dio, che nell'alma infondere") was beautiful, as was his death scene aria "Io morrò, ma lieto in core." Nadia Krasteva (Princess Eboli) has a darkness and a hard edge that works well for the role. Her "O don fatale" in Act IV Scene 1 was surprisingly lovely.

Even the smallest roles had fine singing, including Andrea Silvestrelli as the Grand Inquistor, Pene Pati as Count Lerma, and Toni Marie Palmertree as a Heavenly Voice.

The orchestra members also acquitted themselves well under the direction of Maestro Nicola Luisotti. There were moments that were fuzzy, but for the most part the music flowed nicely and was phrased skillfully.

The sets are spare and costumes lavish. Everything was very pretty to look at but a bit dull. The scene changes require a lot of pauses and this dampens the dramatic import of the proceedings.

* Tattling *
I arrived 30 minutes late as I did not realize the curtain time was 1pm rather than the normal 2pm because of the length of this opera, so I missed the first scene. Terrible!

Sadly there was much misbehavior other than my own in balcony standing room. Lots of talking and fidgeting, and at least one cellular phone. Someone exclaimed very loudly to himself during Act IV when the Grand Inquisitor tells the King that God sacrificed His own son for mankind, so he can surely kill Don Carlo without a bad conscience.

Don Carlo at Opéra national de Paris

Opera-bastille * Notes *
The opening of Don Carlo at Opéra national de Paris was a bit slapdash. Graham Vick's production had some attractive elements, but lost a lot of tension in the drama because of how slow scene changes were. This was not helped by the two intermissions for four acts. Tobias Hoheisel's costumes were ostentatious in contrast to his rather sedate set, but these were pulled together by the lighting, designed by Matthew Richardson.

The orchestra was not bad under Carlo Rizzi, the cello solo in Act III was great, for instance. The brass was harsh, but only had a few bad notes, especially during the fanfares in Act II. All the singing was solid, however, including the chorus. Luciana D'Intino (Eboli) sang her first aria rather robustly, and she produces a full tone when she is singing all out. Sometimes she was a bit thin, perhaps it has to do with the different parts of her voice. Sondra Radvanovsky sounded both icy and sweet as Elisabetta, her "Non pianger, mia compagna" in Act I, Scene 2 was especially lovely.

Ludovic Tézier did well as Rodrigo, his "Dio, che nell'alma infondere" with Stefano Secco (Don Carlo) was very fine. At other times he was overwhelmed by the orchestra, but really turned it out for "Per me giunto è il di supreme" at the end. Secco had enough volume for the most part, though he was difficult to hear in a few places, notably in the last act, when the staging required that he stand upstage, away from Elisabetta. At first, Giacomo Prestia was lackluster as Felipe II, sounding pitchy. However, his "Ella giammai m'amò" was appropriately woeful, yet imposing.

* Tattling * 
The audience was a little restless, and there was a bit of whispering. Someone rustled cellophane and was admonished twice before she ceased her discourteous behavior.

Don Carlo at Unter den Linden

Doncarlorp1* 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.

Den Norske Opera's 2008-2009 Season


April 26- May 5 2008: Operafest
May 29- June 13 2008: Orfeo
June 16-24 2008: Det Store Bankranet
August 9-29 2008: Porgy and Bess
September 20- October 20 2008: Don Carlo
October 1-5 2008: Melancholia
October 17-23 2008: Dead Beat Escapement
October 18- November 20 2008: La Clemenza di Tito
November 6-8 2008: Jenny
November 22-24 2008: Thora på Rimol
December 19 2008- January 19 2009: Die Fledermaus
January 7-22 2009: Walküre
March 9-26 2009: Peter Grimes
April 18-June 20 2009: Carmen
May 20-28 2009: Pollicino
May 29- June 18 2009: Elektra

The Norwegian National Opera was to perform Gisle Kverndokk's Around the World in 80 Days as the first opera in the new house on April 26. Unfortunately, the stage control system for the new house was delivered late, and there was not enough time to train the appropriate parties. Instead they will be presenting a recital with works from various operas, which they have dubbed "Operafest." The opening gala is still set for April 12.

René Pape is singing Philip II in Don Carlo, and the Carmen production is the one from Covent Garden that is opening at Opera Australia tomorrow.

2008-2009 Season | New Opera House | Aftenposten Article

Don Carlos

Way back in November 2003 I attended a couple performances of Don Carlos at San Francisco Opera. They did a five act French version, which is unusual. The two leads, Marina Mescheriakova as Elisabeth and Mark Duffin as Don Carlos, were not particularly impressive. The former was shrill and stiff, the latter was too quiet. Bo Skovhus (Rodrigue) was solid as always, though his movements were somewhat arachnid-like. Violeta Urmana (Princess Eboli) was excellent, her voice was strong and fiery. Her acting was also very good.

The sets and costumes were pretty but not particularly exciting. I found the auto-da-fe to be overly stylized, instead of burning the victims alive, they have them attached to wires and they float away.

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.