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Blu-ray Review

Giuseppe Verdi

Don Carlo

  • Don Carlo - Ramon Vargas
  • Elisabeth - Svetlana Kasyan
  • Philipp II - Ildar Abdrazakov
  • Rodrigo - Ludovic Tezier
  • Princess Eboli - Daniela Barcellona
  • Grand Inquisitor - Marco Spotti
  • Monk - Roberto Tagliavini
  • Tebaldo - Sonia Ciani
  • Voice from Heaven - Erika Grimaldi
  • Count of Lerma - Dario Prola
  • Herald - Luca Casalin
Chorus of Teatro Regio Torino
Orchestra of Teatro Regio Torino/Gianandrea Noseda
Director, Set & Costume Designer - Hugo de Ana
Lighting - Sergio Rossi
Choreographer - Leda Lojodice
Chorus Master - Claudio Fenoglio
Opus Arte Blu-ray OABD7139D 217min LPCM Stereo DTS-HD Master Audio
Find it at AmazonFind it at Amazon UKFind it at Amazon GermanyFind it at Amazon CanadaFind it at Amazon FranceFind it at Amazon JapanOrder Now from ArkivMusic.comFind it at CD Universe Find it at JPC
Also available on DVD OA1128D: Amazon - UK - Germany - Canada - France - Japan - ArkivMusic - CD Universe - JPC

Don Carlo has often been a problematic work for conductors and stage directors down through the years as they've had to choose from multiple versions of the work. Verdi completed the opera in 1866 as Don Carlos with a French-language libretto by Joseph Méry and Camille du Locle. Before its 1867 Paris premiere he made a number of cuts for various musical and non-musical reasons. An Italian translation of the opera was made in 1866 and staged in London in 1867, a few months after the French premiere. Verdi made further changes beginning in 1882 and completed them the following year, retaining the Italian language and reducing the work from five acts to four, mainly by eliminating the entire First Act. This version, called the Milan version of Don Carlo, was premiered in 1884 and that is the one given here by Opus Arte. There is also an 1886 Italian-language version known as the Modena version. Got all that? Happily, what Opus Arte presents here is the most common version of the opera performed today and arguably the best.

What is also good news about this production is the sumptuous staging by Hugo de Ana. It features a very traditional take on the opera, with period costuming, lavish and very atmospheric sets, and excellent if discreet lighting effects. If you like splashy big scenes, try Act II – Part II, wherein we see the procession of monks and other clerics in the square outside the Cathedral. The religious statues featured in the stone walls of the sets here are quite visually impressive, as are the regal costumes.

As for the musical side of things, the orchestra performs admirably under the direction of Gianandrea Noseda. He chooses judicious tempos and does a reasonably good job of shaping the score and capturing the work's sense of drama. But the heart of almost any opera production is the cast of singers, of course, and here they are solid and quite convincing. That said, most do not quite rise to the level of outstanding. Ramon Vargas still has a strong and fairly attractive voice, but it doesn't have the luster of his younger years. So, he's a good Don Carlo but not a particularly youthful one. Svetlana Kasyan is youthful enough and possesses a beautiful and potent voice but, good as she is, doesn't quite reach the heights she might well be capable of. Best of the singers in the cast is Ildar Abdrazakov as Philip. He is especially excellent throughout Part I of Act III and he is joined in this scene by the very convincing Marco Spotti as the Grand Inquisitor. By the way, the cello solo and orchestral playing in the opening of this scene are splendid, very atmospheric. Noseda imparts a dark and very ponderous character most effectively to the proceedings here. Daniela Barcellona as Princess Eboli is nearly as impressive as Abdrazakov. Her Act III O mia Regina is appropriately subtle and understated at the outset and then works up to a real passionate outpouring of emotion. The rest of the cast is good and the chorus sings well throughout.

I reviewed a two-disc DVD of the 1884 version of Don Carlo here in 2005, which was also issued by Opus Arte (Opus Arte DVD OA0933D). That performance had one considerable advantage over this new one: Rolando Villazón sang brilliantly in the role of Don Carlo. On the whole, that earlier Don Carlo was a quite excellent effort musically in most ways, but the production was less effective, with barren and rather drab sets and a general sense of bleakness on stage, which however arguably fits the atmosphere of the story. Both of these performances of Don Carlo have their strengths then, but the newer effort featuring the more lavish production also offers excellent camera work and picture clarity, as well as state-of-the-art sound reproduction. In terms of music then, the earlier one would have to be favored, but in just about every other respect, this new Opus Arte Don Carlo is superior. Depending on your priorities, either one can satisfy.

Copyright © 2015, Robert Cummings