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2010-11, New York Met, Don Carlo

Don Carlo

Click on the image below for a video trailer of this production courtesy of the Metropolitan Opera

2010 Don Carlo New York credit Ken Howard Met Opera02

The performance on 11 December will be broadcast “live in HD” in cinemas around the world

Composer: Guiseppe Verdi
Librettist: Joseph Méry and Camille du Locle after Schiller’s drama, Cormon’s drama and Prescott’s history. Revised in 4 acts by du Locle, translated into Italian by Angelo Zanardini based on Achile de Lauziéres’ original version)

Venue and Dates:

Metropolitan Opera New York
22, 26, 29 November, 3, 7, 11 (mat), 15, 18 (mat) December

Conductor: Yannick Nézet-Séguin
Director: Nicholas Hytner

Don Carlo: Roberto Alagna / Yonghoon Lee 29 Nov & 3, 15, 18 Dec
Elizabeth of Valois: Marina Poplavskaya
Rodrigo: Simon Keenlyside
Philip II: Ferruccio Furlanetto
Princess Eboli: Anna Smirnova
Carlos V:
Grand Inquisitor: Eric Halfvarson
Tebaldo: Layla Claire
Count of Lerma: Edwardo Valdes
Voice from Heaven: Jennifer Check
Flemish Deputies: Donovan Singletary, Keith Harris, Christopher Schaldenbrand, Joshua Benaim, Tyler Simpson, Eric Jordan

Notes: A co-production of the Metropolitan Opera, Royal Opera House, Covent Garden  and the Norwegian National Opera & Ballet.


This production will be the Metropolitan Opera’s video stream on Monday 16 November 2020. The stream will be available for a period of 23 hours, from 7:30 p.m. EDT (US time) until 6:30 p.m. the following day – so available to watch in Europe all day on Tuesday 17 November. 


According to Operawire, a video stream of this production will be broadcast online on 02 April 2020 at 7.30pm US EDT. It will remain available to watch online for the following 23 hours.

For details of how to watch the broadcast, follow the Metropolitan Opera on Facebook or Twitter or click on their Nightly Streams page nearer to the broadcast date.


From Met Opera 2010-11 Season Announcement

“I think Don Carlo is the quintessential Verdi opera,” says director Nicholas Hytner (The History Boys, The Madness of King George), who makes his Met debut with this new production, which was greeted with popular success when it opened in London. “Right through this opera there is, on the one hand, an implacable expression of impending doom and, on the other hand, a succession of the most gloriously open-throated arias, the most fantastically determined music.” Roberto Alagna leads the cast in the title role. Ferruccio Furlanetto, Marina Poplavskaya, Anna Smirnova, and Simon Keenlyside also star in Verdi’s most ambitious opera. “Not one of these characters is prepared to accept his or her own tragic destiny,” Hytner says of this epic tragedy in which romantic desire shapes the course of nations. Yannick Nézet-Séguin, back after his triumphant debut leading Carmen, conducts.


Article in the New York Times, 20 November 2010 by Matthew Gurewitsch

New ‘Don Carlo,’ That Ever-Changing Opera

TOMORROW evening, for the first time in more than 30 years, the Metropolitan Opera will unveil a new production of Verdi’s “Don Carlo.” The director is Nicholas Hytner, working with designs by Bob Crowley, both in their Met debuts. Roberto Alagna leads a starry cast as Don Carlo, the unstable son of Spain’s icy King Philip II. Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducts.

Long a rarity, “Don Carlo” has in recent decades established itself among the most indispensable of Verdi’s creations. But Verdi reworked the opera off and on for nearly 20 years, and unlike others he subjected to heavy revision, this one never settled into a single, universally accepted form.

Based on a sprawling dramatic poem by Friedrich Schiller, “Don Carlo” was written for the Paris Opera (in French, as “Don Carlos”) and to its five-act formula, complete with a ballet. The first act was set in the French forest of Fontainebleau, where the disguised Don Carlo meets and falls in love with the French princess Elisabeth de Valois, to whom he has been engaged from birth. No sooner has Carlo made himself known to her then the news breaks that their fathers have changed their minds: Elisabeth is now to marry Philip. The remaining four acts take place in Spain, where tragedy grinds to its inexorable conclusion. In an abrupt, notoriously mystifying ending, a monk — possibly Philip’s father, the former Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, who abdicated — snatches Carlo from the clutches of the Inquisition.

The plot takes many liberties. Like Shakespeare, Schiller used costume drama as a vehicle for purposes of his own. The purely fictitious Marquis of Posa is a walking anachronism, spouting the libertarian ideals of Schiller’s generation. “I live a citizen of centuries yet to come,” Posa says in the play, very truly.

Posa ultimately gives his life for Carlo, yet Carlo comes to doubt him in moments of crisis, for good reason. Against Posa’s will the king has co-opted him as his confidant and spy. Rather than romanticize Posa’s loyalty to Carlo, Mr. Hytner and Simon Keenlyside, who sings the part at the Met, underscore his moral ambiguity.

“We want you to see him turn,” Mr. Keenlyside said. “Every man has his price. Posa and Carlo have been friends since they were boys. Now he wants to manipulate Carlo to his own political ends. Philip gives him power, knowing full well that it will make him proud and vain.”

Betrayal of one kind or another is a foregone conclusion. We watch characters on the stage, Mr. Keenlyside said, hoping against hope that they will pass the same moral tests we know we ourselves would fail.

“For a tiny moment in the theater we’re better people,” Mr. Keenlyside said. “There’s a voice in our heads that keeps repeating: ‘You can be better than that. You don’t have to follow the crowd.’ But when you leave the theater, you will.”

Heavily revised and cut in rehearsal, the original “Don Carlos” reached the stage in Paris in 1867. In 1884 the Teatro alla Scala in Milan presented a thoroughly reworked four-act version in Italian. Of the original first act, only the aria for Carlo remained, with an anguished new preamble. (Though key, text and melody have all been modified, the aria proper remains perfectly recognizable, an elegant reverie transformed to bitter reminiscence.) Two years later, a hybrid five-act version appeared, joining the Fontainebleau act to the Spanish acts as revised for La Scala, but with Carlo’s aria back in its original place.

For much of the 20th century “Don Carlo” was heard almost exclusively in the four-act version, in Italian. In 1979 the Met mounted a landmark five-act production directed by John Dexter and conducted by James Levine that included recently discovered pages of richly atmospheric music cut from the Fontainebleau scene even before the Paris premiere. (The production is available on DVD from Pioneer Classics.) Over the protests of purists who pointed out that Verdi composed and revised “Don Carlo” entirely in French, the opera was sung in Italian. With the new production the Met honors its own precedent.

Is there really a case to be made for “Don Carlo” in Italian? And are five acts necessarily better than four?

Antonio Pappano, who conducted the Hytner “Don Carlo” at its London premiere in 2008 as well as the historic five-act Luc Bondy production, in French, at the Châtelet in Paris in 1996 (available on DVD from Kultur), favors French. “In terms of mood and atmosphere, opera delivered in French and opera delivered in Italian sound completely different,” Mr. Pappano said recently from Chicago. “There’s an idyllic, elegiac, almost nostalgic quality to the French. It’s more poetic in a way. The Italian is slightly more meat and potatoes.”

Ferruccio Furlanetto, who sings Philip in the new Met production, prefers Italian. “French has a flavor I like less,” he said. “Not because I’m Italian. We must not forget that Verdi was from Emilia-Romagna, where there’s a very special taste for life, very powerful, very bloody. In French that spirit is totally lost. Verdi spoke decent French. But I’m sure he didn’t think in French. In French, Philip’s great aria becomes a chamber piece.”

Left to his own devices, Mr. Hytner said, his choice would have been for French. But he expressed no reservations about the hybrid five-act edition. “This version best reconciles the competing demands of dramatic concision and musical and narrative amplitude,” he said.

In five acts “Don Carlos” unfolds like a suite of tapestries, as a tragic romance set against a succession of picturesque tableaus: the wintry forest of Fontainebleau, the Spartan monastery of San Yuste, a park sparkling under the blaze of noon, a royal garden glimmering in the moonlight, the portal of a cathedral, the king’s study, a prison. The four-act “Don Carlo,” beginning and ending in San Yuste, where solemn fanfares evoke thoughts of the Last Judgment, feels like architecture, massive and voluminous, framed by mighty columns. Within this context the amenities of a park or the garden, though still present, seem illusory, incidental, deceptive. The tragedy is unrelieved.

Mr. Crowley, whose research for the sets and costumes included a visit to Philip’s gloomy residence, the Escorial, which also houses the crypt of the Spanish monarchs, developed the imagery for Fontainebleau purely from his head.

“It’s designed to look completely different to anything else in the opera,” Mr. Crowley said. “This is the place where young Carlo finds love, and where everything is taken away as quickly as it’s been given. The whole point of Fontainebleau is to show the one moment of happiness that he enjoys, to remain as a beautiful memory for the audience and for Carlo himself.”

But playing time has been an issue with “Don Carlo” since before its Paris premiere. Must we really see Fontainebleau for ourselves? The only principals we meet there are Carlo and Elisabeth, whose lost paradise Verdi takes care to evoke later on, sometimes in a single fragrant phrase, sometimes more expansively. To Mr. Nézet-Séguin, the conductor, storytelling economy is not all. “In the five-act version,” he said, “we get more of that feeling. It’s another pleasure, another facet.”

The vision of Marina Poplavskaya’s Elisabeth rehearsing Fontainebleau onstage with Mr. Hytner drove the point home. Coltish, fancy free, Ms. Poplavskaya charged through the bare trees like the huntress Diana, waist-length hair flying loose. Then, freezing in her tracks, she aimed her flintlock at an unseen quarry. This was not the embalmed royal we see entrapped in the Spanish court.

“Elisabeth has the soul of a child,” Ms. Poplavskaya said. “She is very innocent, very unspoiled. She does her duty. She speaks the truth. As queen she is like an icon. Yes, an icon.”

Yes and no. True, the king’s conniving mistress, Princess Eboli, who lusts after Carlo even as she awakens to his attachment to the queen, decries Elisabeth as “this modern-day saint.” But Elisabeth’s virtue — revealed in Spain in lightning bolts of righteous indignation — is no facade. That she loves the prince is a misfortune her character allows her neither to act on nor to deny.

Deprived of happiness, Elisabeth has her new role as queen to cling to. Carlo, cut adrift, self-destructs. It is his character, even more than hers, that reveals extra dimensions in Fontainebleau. Yet to Vittorio Grigolo, who has studied and performed only the four-act “Don Carlo,” that version is complete in itself.

“Carlo is a kid, very fragile,” said Mr. Grigolo, who was visiting New York during the “Don Carlo” rehearsal period for his Met debut in “La Bohème.” “His scenes are short, but each is different and very intense. He’s a lamb among the wolves. But in the end Carlo is the winner. Going to the monastery, he finds his own world, his own soul.”

Mr. Alagna, whose only previous experience of the opera was in the five-act Châtelet production, likens the Fontainebleau act to the opening of Massenet’s “Werther,” another opera that revolves around a too-sensitive soul who shipwrecks on the hard realities of the world. “Werther’s hymn to Nature at the beginning makes such a beautiful entrance,” Mr. Alagna said. “He’s happy, in love with life. Then everything falls apart, just as for Carlo.”

With both four- and five-act versions under his belt, Yonghoon Lee, the tenor who alternates with Mr. Alagna in the new Met production, prefers five. “With four, when I start, I’m already on the dark side,” he said. “With five, I don’t even think about dark side at the beginning. I’m happy. I’m in love. I’m excited. It makes more sense to me that way. But for the tenor, it gets to be a long night.”

An Interview of Simon and Roberto Alagna during rehearsal time


Photo Gallery

Met Archive Photogallery


Anthony Tommasini, New York Times, 23 November 2010

A Winning, Cautious, ‘Don Carlo’ at the Met

Though not without flaws, Verdi’s “Don Carlo” is the “Hamlet” of Italian opera. Every new production of this profound and challenging work is a major venture for an opera company. The Metropolitan Opera has to be pleased, overall, with its new staging by the eminent English director Nicholas Hytner in his company debut, which opened on Monday and earned an enthusiastic ovation. No booing of the production team on this premiere night.

The cast is mostly excellent. Roberto Alagna sings the touchstone title role, and this gifted tenor, who has gone through periods of shaky singing and made some ill-considered career moves, sounds better than he has in 10 years. The big news may have been the conducting of Yannick Nézet-Séguin, the 35-year-old Canadian designated to become the music director of the Philadelphia Orchestra. “Don Carlo” is a sizable assignment, literally. The opera, first presented in Paris in 1867, is performed here in its five-act version in Italian, basically Verdi’s final 1886 revision of this much-revised score. With two intermissions, the performance lasted four-and-a-half hours.

But Mr. Nézet-Séguin, who made his Met debut last season with an exciting, if impetuous “Carmen,” drew a richly textured, inexorably paced and vividly characterized account of Verdi’s epic score from the great Met orchestra, which sounded inspired. His excitement sometimes got the better of him. In a few arias with undulant accompaniment patterns he needed a phrase or two to find the groove and get with his singers. But he is a born communicator who brought youthful passion and precocious insight to his work.

New productions are always grist for debate in the opera world. But it is hard to imagine what opera buffs will object to in this one, a co-production with the Royal Opera in London (presented there in 2008) and the Norwegian National Opera and Ballet. Mr. Hytner’s impressively fluid staging places the cast in evocative period costumes (by Bob Crowley) against the backdrops of spare, modern-looking sets (also by Mr. Crowley).

If there is nothing very daring about the production, it is alive with striking images. The ominous monastery of San Yuste in Spain is framed by looming black walls with rows of square windows through which crisscrossing shafts of sunlight shine. The scene in the public square where heretics are tormented by the crowd is played before an ornate gold church and culminates with the glimpse of bodies on a flaming pyre in the background. No regie-theater metaphorical nonsense here.

Verdi’s opera, adapted from a dramatic poem by Schiller, plays loose with the history of Philip II of Spain, who in an attempt to forge peace with France decides to marry Elisabeth, the daughter of Henry II, who had been intended for Philip’s son and heir, Don Carlo. Crowd scenes and spectacle were requisite for opera in Paris, and Verdi supplied them. Still, at its core the opera is a family drama, a story of powerful people made pawns during a time of religious fanaticism, who feel alienated from their inner selves.

The member of the cast who best exemplified the Italianate Verdi style was the bass Ferruccio Furlanetto, as Philip. The king is the opera’s most psychologically complex character. Marrying Elisabeth is not just a political maneuver but the rash act of an older man who feels threatened by his dreamy, idealistic son. Philip is understandably paranoid, since the real power in his realm is the ruthless Grand Inquisitor.

Mr. Furlanetto brought aching expressivity and stentorian sound to the scene in which Philip, in his lonely study at night, is overcome with anguish as he confronts the reality of his life: a young wife who never loved him; a rebellious, contemptuous son; subjects who fear him.

The lovely Russian soprano Marina Poplavskaya, as Elisabeth, does not have a classic Verdi voice. Still, with her luminous singing, beautiful pianissimo high notes and unforced power, she was a noble, elegant Elisabeth. Somehow, the cool Russian colorings of her voice brought out the apartness of the character, a young woman in a loveless marriage in a foreign land.

Elisabeth does have one moment of joy, just a few hours, in Act I, the Fontainebleau scene. Carlo tracks down Elisabeth in France to see the woman he is supposed to marry. When they meet, they have an extended duet of blissful lyricism, which these young lovers relished. How could Verdi ever have sanctioned a version of this opera without the Fontainebleau act?

Born in France of Italian heritage, Mr. Alagna knows both styles intimately. His past problems have been not for want of style but for unreliable technique. He seems to have worked things out in recent years. In a few phrases he sounded leathery and rough, and he took a while to steady himself vocally in the opening scene. Still, much of his signing was poignant, ardent and supplely phrased.

For someone so good-looking and charismatic, Mr. Alagna can be surprisingly awkward onstage, as he was at times here, especially during solo arias, when he looked stiff. But whenever he was joined by the baritone Simon Keenlyside, who sang Rodrigo, the Marquis of Posa and Carlo’s devoted friend, Mr. Alagna opened up in every way. Mr. Keenlyside is one of the most natural actors in opera. His Rodrigo was a naïve hothead out to win Carlo to the cause of the oppressed people of Flanders. Vocally, Mr. Keenlyside is no beefy Verdi baritone, and there was occasional effort in his singing. But the vocal resonance and emotional integrity of his performance made him an affecting Rodrigo.

The weak link was the Russian mezzo-soprano Anna Smirnova, in her Met debut, as Princess Eboli, though weak is hardly the word to describe her go-for-broke singing. Her sound was enormous, but there was too much raw bellowing. Eboli, a dark beauty who has been the king’s mistress, is a seductress but also a victim. She should be sultry, not blowsy.

The bass Eric Halfvarson was at once terrifying and pitiable as the blind, frail, avenging Grand Inquisitor. The soprano Layla Claire, in her Met debut, was an impish, bright-voiced Tebaldo, Elisabeth’s page. Alexei Tanovitsky, a bass in his Met debut, was an aptly chilling Friar, confronting the distraught Carlo in an early scene, then reappearing in the last confusing moment of the opera, when Carlo is attacked by Philip and his soldiers near the tomb of Charles V.

In Mr. Hytner’s intriguing staging of this scene, Carlo is badly wounded. The Friar, whose voice sounds to the Grand Inquisitor eerily like that of the dead emperor Charles, hovers over the prince. Does the Friar merely beckon Don Carlo into the cloister or invite him to cross over into the beyond? It’s the most mystifying moment of this Verdi masterpiece.

Ronald Blum, Associated Press, 23 November 2010

The Metropolitan Opera keeps replacing some of its productions with inferior successors.

The latest to be unveiled was an uneven staging of Verdi’s “Don Carlo” directed by Nicholas Hytner that arrived at the Met on Monday night, nearly two and a half years after it was first seen at London’s Royal Opera.

Sets veered from striking to silly, a musical decision at the opening took a step backward, the director inserted a character creation of his own, and the cast ranged from the excellent in Roberto Alagna, Ferruccio Furlanetto and Simon Kenenlyside to the problematic in Marina Poplavskaya and Anna Smirnova. Some parts were memorable, others forgettable, but conductor Yannick Nezet-Seguin led a musically compelling performance of great sweep.

While not as radical as Luc Bondy’s ugly version of Puccini’s “Tosca” or as static as Robert Lepage’s staging of Wagner’s “Das Rheingold,” which replaced popular versions by Franco Zeffirelli and Otto Schenk, “Don Carlo” was disappointing when compared to its predecessor. Still, Hytner and his production team received universal applause at the final curtain.

A sprawling account of the intersection of royalty, religion and love, this is Verdi’s longest opera at about four hours uncut. It opened as “Don Carlos” in a five-act French version at the Paris Opera in 1867. Revisions produced a four-act Italian version at Milan’s Teatro alla Scala in 1884.

For John Dexter’s 1979 production at the Met, the original five-act version was used minus the ballet, and the Met restored the opening scene at Fontainebleau, which Verdi trimmed before the first performance. Hytner jettisoned the longer opening, eliminating about seven minutes of music.

More egregiously, Hytner arrogantly invented a spoken-word priest during the third act auto-da-fe who demands the prisoners confess and repent, a character that wasn’t created by Verdi and his librettists and interferes with the music; the Met said Hytner researched the Spanish Inquisition and that the addition was realistic.

Martin Bernheimer, Financial Times, 23 November 2010

Click above to read this article.

Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim,The Classical Review,23 November 2010

The Met delivers a powerful, moving and very Catholic “Don Carlo”

“How was it for you?” a young man asked his companion as they lined up at the bar during the second intermission of Monday night’s new production of Don Carlo. Moments before, Philip II had dispatched a bloodied band of heretics to the stake in a gory auto-da-fé.
“I liked it,” replied the other, a pallid youth with longish blond hair. “I like Jesus and fire, so I was pretty much on board.”

A taste for the more lurid expressions of Catholic devotion may be required to fully appreciate this Don Carlo, which premiered at Covent Garden two years ago, directed by Nicholas Hytner, director of London’s National Theater and designed by Bob Crowley, an Irishman. Mr. Crowley dug deep into the repository of Christian kitsch with sets that sometimes looked like the sort of devotional souvenirs sold to pilgrims in Santiago de Compostela. During the auto-da-fé, the fulcral point of the opera, an entire wall was given over to a painting of a pudgy-looking Christ with blood dripping down his forehead; the model of Valladolid Cathedral was doused in gold paint, looking like something from inside a snow globe.

That the production nevertheless offers a powerful and moving portrayal of Verdi’ s darkest and most complex opera is a measure of the vocal brilliance of the cast, the driving force of Yannick Nézet-Séguin’s conducting, and – to a degree rarely felt in opera – the virtuosic lighting by Mark Henderson. When Don Carlo first visits the tomb of his grandfather Charles V in the monastery, Henderson creates a criss-cross of light beams that suggest the nightmarish stairways of Piranesi’s Carceri. Much of the time, the lighting moves as fluidly as the music, inflecting a single scene with a wide spectrum of moods. And when the admonishing ghost of Charles appears at the end of the opera, he does so in a burst of glaring light so operatic it seems an extension of Verdi’s orchestration.

The production is based on the 1886 Modena version of Don Carlo, consisting of the final revised edition by Verdi but including also the initial Fontainebleau scene in which Don Carlo and Elisabetta first meet. This makes for a long evening, but Nézet-Séguin’s muscular tempos kept the momentum going. Much of his popular appeal lies in his technique, the sort of conducting that is engaging to watch for its infectious energy.

But the sounds he drew out of the Met orchestra proved once again that he is a very serious musician. In scene after scene, he built up dramatic tension through the use of bold blocks of color like the musical equivalent of chiaroscuro painting. He is well attuned to the stage directions embedded in the score, such as the menacing limp of the Grand Inquisitor, sung with a powerful, if wobbly, bass by Eric Halfvarson.

Ferruccio Furlanetto offered a searing performance as Philip II. His voice is evenly round and majestic across the register and his heart-wrenching Ella giammai m’amò brought a prolonged storm of applause. The moving portrayal of the tyrant’s private grief was marred only by the presence of a gilded reliquary in the corner with a garish image of a saint peering out like a jack-in-the-box.

Carlo was sung by Roberto Alagna; his revolutionary friend Rodrigo by Simon Keenlyside. Alagna’s appearance had been much anticipated, but, echoing events in the opera, the true heir to Furlanetto’s vocal reign seemed to be Keenlyside. The English baritone was in glorious form making the most of Verdi’s luscious melodies and producing a warm, vibrant tone even when he sang the beginning of Io morrò lying face-down on the floor.

Alagna produced all the notes required of him, but appeared slow in warming to his role. His middle register has at times a sharp, somewhat ungenerous quality about it and some of his high notes stood out more for their loudness than anything else. But he played the part of the impetuous prince with great conviction and there was genuine chemistry between him and Marina Poplavskaya’s Elisabetta.

Poplavskaya is gifted with a scintillating vocal personality and knows how to apply it. When she pulls out all the stops she produces a rich, creamy sound, but she also knows how to pare it down to a purer, more youthful and fragile tone. As Elisabetta, she drew on both, showing the womanly, sensuous side of the young queen, and the hard fought-for peace as she renounces her passion. In the garden scene in Act I, when she forces herself to reject Carlo’s advances causing him to faint in her arms, Poplavskaya resorts to half speaking, half singing to him for a few lines, offering a moment of rare intimacy amid the pomp and drama.

By contrast, Anna Smirnova’s Eboli is all fire. Her veil song suffered from an excess of vibrato, though it helped sketch out a character simmering with passion and resentment, and she nicely brought out the Moorish character of the melody. Her O don fatale showcased her flexible coloratura technique in an explosive portrayal of self-incrimination and remorse. As an auto-da-fe, it was a lot more chilling than any assembly of barefoot heretics and hooded monks.

Robert Hofler, The Variety, 23 November 2010

A Metropolitan Opera presentation of an opera in five acts by Giuseppe Verdi, Francois Joseph Mery and Camille du Locle. Directed by Nicholas Hytner. Conductor, Yannick Nezet-Seguin.

Don Carlo – Roberto Alagna Elisabeth – Marina Poplavskaya Rodrigo -Simon Keenlyside Philip II-Ferruccio Furlanetto Princess of Eboli – Anna Smirnova Grand Inquisitor – Eric Halfvarson

Nicholas Hytner and Bob Crowley, two legit stalwarts, make a spectacular leap to the opera stage with the Met’s new production of “Don Carlo,” first seen at Covent Garden last year. With the genius of Verdi and the resources of two big opera houses at their disposal, director and designer have unleashed something here that will astound those acquainted only with their Broadway work. You’ve heard about total theater? This is it.

Let some opera experts prefer his “Otello” or “Falstaff”; “Don Carlo” is Verdi’s supreme masterwork with its six — count ’em, six — full-blooded characters in the grandest human drama that finds another of the composer’s heroines choosing duty to country over personal happiness. In love with Don Carlo (Robert Alagna), Elisabeth of France (Marina Poplavskaya) chooses instead to marry his father, King Philip II of Spain (Ferruccio Furlanetto), to keep the peace, unleashing the jealous fury of a rival, Eboli (Anna Smirnova), and the wrath of the Grand Inquisitor (Eric Halfvarson), as Carlo’s friend and peacemaker Rodrigo (Simon Keenlyside) gets sacrificed in the process. That’s a lot of story, but there’s even more great music.

Crowley, who also designed the sumptuous costumes, creates several visually unique stage pictures — from the winter fantasy of Fontainebleau to the gloomy monastery of St. Just to the garish Valladolid Cathedral, scene of the ghastly auto-de-fe — and yet the whole production is of one simple, almost stark stylistic piece. He’s much aided here by Mark Henderson’s lighting, which turns trees, hedges and pillars into ominous monoliths.

Some operagoers prefer the four-act version of “Don Carlo,” which begins after Carlo and Elisabeth have met and fallen in love at Fontainebleau. In this five-acter, Hytner takes that love-at-first-sight story and gives it convincing life. Rodgers & Hammerstein needed their conditional love duet to get the romantic juices flowing, but not Verdi and Hytner. Their two leads are young and in love the second they meet, and the rest is tragedy as Elisabeth is soon forced to choose the king, leaving Carlo alone.

Again and again in this production, Hytner and Crowley isolate Carlo at a scene’s conclusion, often creating masterful silent segues to the next act as candle-carrying monks or corpse-bearing soldiers direct our attention forward.

When the Met first presented “Don Carlo” in 1950, Roman Catholics protested. Hytner, to his credit, reawakens that outrage with an auto-de-fe scene that stuns with a chorus of priests, cardinals and other unholy human animals who gouge out eyes and burn the innocent at the stake. Remember Hytner’s helicopter in “Miss Saigon”? He tops it with this act-three fire storm.

But “Don Carlo” is nothing without a great tenor to deliver the title role. Fortunately, the Met has Alagna, whose tangy tenor possesses just the right dash of acid to bring expressive power to the doomed prince. Furlanetto has a few miles on his bass, and every foot of that vocal journey only gives authority to his interpretation of the weariest despot on earth. The very full-throated Smirnova presents a raucous and vulgar Eboli. Much more elegant is Keenlyside, but even in this lightest of Verdi baritone roles, he is overtaxed, especially in his act-two confrontation with Philip. Poplavskaya lets go with some great high notes and her voice dominate the ensembles, but she has trouble negotiating the passaggio and by evening’s end she had noticeably tired, cutting short several phrases. If conductor Yannick Nezet-Seguin lacks some of the finesse of James Levine when it comes to this opera, he substitutes with plenty of drive and fire.

James Jordan, New York Post, 24 November 2010

Regal cast in Verdi work about European royalty

A flawed Verdi masterpiece inspired a superb performance Monday night when the Met unveiled its new, richly cerebral production of “Don Carlo.”

Spanish history inspired this saga of the 16th-century French princess Elizabeth, who loves Prince Carlo but agrees to marry his father, King Philip II, to end a war between their countries. Verdi grudgingly made heavy cuts to his music at the 1867 premiere, then tweaked the work for the next two decades, without ever arriving at a definitive version.

Towering over a regal cast was Roberto Alagna, in his first performance of the revised Italian version of this opera. As the Hamlet-like prince, the tenor offered perhaps his finest Met performance to date, sweetly poetic in lyrical moments and rocketing to thrilling high notes. Equally impressive was Ferrucio Furlanetto’s conflicted King Philip. At 61, the Italian bass still commands a vast range and thundering vocal power.

Less ideally cast was Anna Smirnova, who, in her Met debut, flung her ferocious mezzo in the general direction of the king’s scheming mistress, Eboli. More satisfying was Simon Keenlyside, who finessed a slender baritone into a heartfelt portrayal of the prince’s idealistic friend Posa.

The enigma at the center of the epic was Marina Poplavskaya’s Elizabeth. The tall Russian blonde recalled the youngMeryl Streepas she commanded the stage, but, though she sang with passion and imagination, her smoky soprano veered from ethereal beauty to off-pitch shouting.

Leading the 4½-hour blockbuster was Canadian conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin, coaxing from the Met orchestra the precision and passion usually reserved for music director James Levine. His brisk tempos and transparent textures both flattered the singers and propelled the tragic drama.

The elegance of his approach was echoed in the imposing staging by Nicholas Hytner, artistic director of Britain’s National Theatre, who illuminated the characters’ tormented relationships with a myriad of subtle acting details. Bob Crowley’s sets and costumes suggested the tense grandeur of Philip’s court in a restricted palette of red, gold and black.

The restrained visuals rightly threw focus on the singers, particularly Poplavskaya. Shortcomings aside, she has that indefinable something that elevates opera singing into high art. In “Don Carlo,” she’s as fascinating as the imperfect masterpiece she performs.

Manuela Hoelterhoff and Zinta Lundborg, Blomberg, 26.11.2010

Tonight head over to the Metropolitan Opera with a sack of cash to buy your way into the new production of Verdi’s “Don Carlo” with the sensational Roberto Alagna in the title role.

Looking fabulous in puffy 16th-century shorts, doublet and boots, the tenor sings his heart out as the doomed prince who loses bride Elisabeth to his awful father, King Philip II of Spain.

As you may remember, Philip grumps around the Escorial palace looking for heretics under his bed. Every day is a good day for an auto-da-fe, as far as Philip is concerned. The opera’s anguished mortals spend almost five hours tormented by church and state.

All the while, they sing music so glorious not one minute seems superfluous. A high point is a huge ensemble scene that culminates with Philip presiding over a heretic bonfire as Carlo and Elisabeth look on in horror.

It made a big effect at the Nov. 22 opening, though this generally engrossing production by director Nicholas Hytner and designer Bob Crowley is hardly a budget buster. Shared by Oslo’s opera and London’s Covent Garden, the show features expensively handsome period costumes, but also a lot of walls and a raked stage with no elevations.

Poetic Lighting

Couldn’t some rich opera patron have bought them a staircase or two? Or a few more trees for the twee-looking forest of Fontainebleau?

Fortunately, the wonderfully moody lighting by Mark Henderson often gives empty space a poetic dimension, especially in scenes set in the cloister of St. Just where Carlo sings his last goodbye to Elisabeth and the world.

By which time, Alagna still sounded fresh as he embraced Marina Poplavskaya, nearly his equal in stamina and elegant appearance, though the voice could use more personality.

As Carlo’s other great love, the worldly Marquis de Posa, Simon Keenlyside was riveting in the intensity of his delivery and endearingly awkward bows. Ferruccio Furlanetto made Philip’s monologue flow with sorrowful beauty.

His bristling meeting with the Grand Inquisitor brought on the impressive Eric Halfvarson — a palsied mass of hate. The bright-voiced Anna Smirnova made an auspicious Met debut, though Princess Eboli requires a more Italianate sound and also a prettier dress.

In the pit, Yannick Nezet-Seguin brought urgency and passion to Verdi’s greatest score.

David Finkle, Theatermania.com, 25.11.2010

Tony Award-winning director Nicholas Hytner and his frequent (and equally celebrated) collaborator, designer Bob Crowley, are once again demonstrating their joint expertise at the Metropolitan Opera House with a stunning, stirring production of Giuseppe Verdi’s 1867 opera, Don Carlo, which is sure to be a highlight of the company’s current season.

Adapted from Friedrich Schiller’s 1787 play — with an original French libretto by Francois Joseph Mery and Camille du Locle, an Italian translation by Achille de Lauzieres and Angelo Zanardini, and some Verdi tinkering of actual history, the work focuses on 16th-century Don Carlo (Roberto Alagna). The noble Spaniard is engaged to French princess Elizabeth (Marina Poplavskaya) and the two fall helplessly and hopelessly in love at first first-act sight.

However, their union is aborted when Don Carlo’s imperious dad, King Philip II (Ferruccio Furlanetto) decides to marry Elizabeth himself. After that, a spider web of court intrigue is spun that plays out against Philip’s oppression of the Flemish and Don Carlo’s alliance with Rodrigo, Marquis of Posa (Simon Keenlyside) and their plan to free the Flanders inhabitants.

It’s true that there are fewer arias here that have attached themselves to opera-lovers’ ears than in other Verdi opuses, yet the music has a stately passion impossible not to swoon to. Indeed, Philip’s fourth-act opener “Ella giammai m’amo,” the fourth act quartet for Philip, Don Carlo, Elizabeth and the scheming Princess of Eboli (Anna Smirnova), and the fifth act’s final Don Carlo-Elizabeth duet — with its heart-stopping pathos — is only the start to Verdi’s ravishing gifts on display.

At the Met, the score is conducted by Yannick Nezet-Sequin with all the passionate stateliness required. The singing is majestic as well, with Alagna constantly achieving a full-throated, robust sound. Furlanetto not only gives his bass a plangent quality, but his acting, particularly in the ruminative fourth-act soliloquy, is superb — revealing a tyrant who is three-dimensionally human.

Playing the dignified, albeit fiery friend to both monarch and son, Keenlyside proves to be the persuasive thespian he showed himself to be in last year’s Hamlet. His rich baritone, however, only fills the hall sometimes. Poplavskaya’s soprano is a blend of gold and silver in the high range, though she is occasionally less than successful in her middle range. Making her Met debut, Smirnova proves her mezzo has the dark tones right for the role and others like it.

What Hytner and Crowley, abetted by lighting designer Mark Henderson, have accomplished with seeming ease and authority is enabling the cast to go about their thrilling business in sets and costumes immeasurably smart and straightforward. Most of the work is played in black, red, and shades of gray — with one indelible scene featuring ladies of the court gowned in black and incessantly waving large red fans.

Indeed, the only break in that palette occurs in the third-act scene — during which Flemish deputies plead futilely before Philip for the lives of supposed heretics condemned to be burned — which is set before an ornate gold church façade and a tall portrait of a bloody, morose Jesus. While the martyrs eventually go up in rising special-effects flames, this production truly rises on the supernal talents of its creative team and cast.

David Patrick Stearns, Philly.com, 24.11.2010

Even if Verdi is your favorite composer and Don Carlothe most substantial of his 28 stage works, you could still be relieved that conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin wrapped up the opera 15 minutes under its near-five-hour estimated running time Monday at the Metropolitan Opera.That’s not to suggest the opera needs to be shorter. The opening night of this new Nicholas Hytner production was a clear-cut hit, with all working parts falling so easily into place that the hyper-alert reading of the score – so richly detailed as to warrant comparison to Herbert von Karajan – by the Philadelphia Orchestra’s music director-designate could put you in a rare state of Verdi overload. Simulcast audiences on Dec. 11 may be even more intensely affected by so much ingenuity up close. The opening-night audience’s ovations were perhaps muted by fatigue, but rarely have I seen an opera audience so unanimously satisfied.Nearly twice the length of Otello, Don Carlo is an intimate epic. Set in 16th-century Spain, it reveals the court of Philip II from the inside out, going deep into everyone’s inner lives before showing how they changed history. For all their power, the characters have so little personal freedom that they live in a state of house arrest. Those who break out of that die, in a plot structure that’s like a noose tightening slowly around the necks of everybody you care about. Few productions convey that as well as this one – to be expected from Hytner, known to New Yorkers from the Broadway Miss Saigon and the Lincoln Center Carousel. He originated this production at London’s Royal Opera with much of Monday’s cast.Early scenes, as designed by Bob Crowley, are fanciful, picturesque, and unrealistic: Wintertime scenes have neat paths through the snow, court scenes show women with color-coordinated red fans against a saturated yellow backdrop. Later, a darker realism sets in, showing a world in which pomp and glory are achieved at cruel human cost.

Among the cast, tenor Roberto Alagna (Carlo) continues to shed years: Though audibly tired by the end, he still sounded far healthier than in years past. Few Verdi singers know how to shape a recitative so eloquently – palpably aided by Nézet-Séguin. As Rodrigo, Simon Keenlyside wasn’t the most substantial Verdi baritone, but sang beautifully, with a hotheaded characterization smartly fashioned right down to the tilt of his head. Ferruccio Furlanetto was an intensely human King Philip, though his great scene with Eric Halfvarson’s Grand Inquisitor lacked a dramatic arc: There was no power shift from state to church because the vocally imposing Halfvarson was in control from note one. In the EMI video of this production’s London version, the king pulls a knife on the blind inquisitor – a great detail missed on Monday.

The lead female roles were mildly disappointing. Though convincing theatrically, Marina Poplavskaya was a vocally underpowered Elisabetta. Anna Smirnova’s Eboli was more a real person than a monstrous court denizen, but lacked vocal accuracy.

For long stretches, I forgot Nézet-Séguin was there, a sign of his willingness to unostentatiously support the singers. Then I’d realize that many dramatic through-lines of Hytner’s direction were mirrored in the score’s interplay of recurring motifs, a quality that has rarely been so apparent. He found inner voices in the orchestra that propel the action; blends brought new coloristic dimensions to even the most familiar passages; climaxes were masterfully built but never forced. Comparisons to Karajan, however, break down on the issue of tempo: Nézet-Séguin’s were more vigorous and idiomatically Italian.

John Yohalem,Opera Today, 3.12.2010

Performance of November 26.

It may be as well to put matters in context by saying that Don Carlo is a favorite opera of mine (and of all Verdi lovers), and that I found the Met’s new staging highly satisfactory, vocally very good if less than top flight, orchestrally thrilling—and that I hope to catch it again this season. (Interesting rumors have been heard about the alternate tenor.)

The Met, perhaps because this Nicholas Hytner production has been borrowed from Covent Garden where it has been playing for two years, has for once not made the mistake of undercutting a grand opera (such as Boris Godunov) by staging it as if it were a chamber drama, or staging intimate dramas (like The Nose and From the House of the Dead) as if they were grand operas. The new Don Carlo lets Verdi’s grandest work be grand, complete with massed forces and shocking coups de théâtre.

The problem Verdi set himself in Don Carlo, following Schiller’s 1787 verse drama, was to represent political conflict with individual characters without sacrificing their individuality. This difficulty lies in the way of stage directors as well: If the figures are too personal, the issues fade, become unreal; if the political factors take the foreground, the characters may forfeit our sympathy. Verdi’s individuals each go through a soul-struggle before our eyes and ears; their agony brings them tragic stature and makes the conflict rending society (then and now) between individual conscience and reasons of state more vivid to us. For both Schiller and Verdi, the drama is the protest of the individual against the crushing demands of the tyrannical state, and though the focus of their sympathies is never in doubt, they fully state the case for the latter to create a richer tragedy.

It wasn’t an easy birth. Verdi ultimately created three performing versions of the score; a fourth, drawing on cuts made before the 1867 premiere, was devised for James Levine at the Met in 1979. The current Met version is Verdi’s number three: Five acts sung in Italian translation, no ballet (only done in Vienna nowadays), no war-weary introduction (resurrected from opening night discards for Levine). It is a measure of the composer’s genius that, faced with the conflicting demands of story, persona, history and politics, he produced a masterpiece that has become an audience favorite.

Hytner stages Don Carlo in the three favorite colors of Spain: crimson, gold and black. Anyone dressed otherwise (the French court in blue, the Flemish envoys in brown) is clearly an outsider, and the chorus costumes are repetitive, which makes the main characters stand out. The portrait Carlo gives Elisabetta when he first meets her at Fontainebleau is in a crimson locket, which stands out against his black costume and her white one. In Act IV, when the King finds the portrait, it is recognizably the same crimson locket. The set often features a stylized black wall of small, rat-hole windows, a fortress or a prison for Carlo, cutting him off from human contact—but it also becomes the spy-filled court for the King’s study. Elisabetta is first seen as rather a hoyden, in cheerful silver French court dress, romping through the woods and firing a musket at (let us assume) deer. The contrast of her uninhibited behavior and flowing golden tresses with the rigid figure she plays in black or red after her wedding makes the proper point.

On the not-so-excellent side, Hytner appears to miss the point of Eboli’s Veil. That lady enters with a flamboyant showpiece about a king who accidentally woos his own veiled wife; thus Verdi subtly lets us know she has secrets of her own—she is in love with Carlo, but is the king’s mistress. (In Schiller, she is also the Queen’s false friend; Verdi couldn’t work that in.) When next we meet her, in the garden scene, she is veiled and Carlo makes love to her by mistake. Then, when the Queen learns of her treachery, with unconscious irony she orders Eboli to choose “between exile and the Veil,” that is, a nunnery. Hytner misses this through-line, which is not important. What is important is that we understand how Eboli, in the garden scene, deduces that Carlo loves the Queen. In the omitted previous scene, Eboli and the Queen exchanged veils; some Ebolis take off the veil and notice it again when Carlo recoils from her avowals, realizing only then that he thought he was making love to some other lady. Hytner’s Eboli, in contrast, keeps the veil on her head and simply makes a guess out of thin air. This is not thoughtful theater.

Another character whose potential Hytner seemed to miss was the mysterious Friar, who turns out to be the King’s abdicated, possibly dead, father, Emperor Charles V. Alexei Tarnovitsky has a rumbly bass with no suggestion of supernatural conscience, but to have him simply stroll on to interrupt the family tragedy forfeits the awe Verdi and his librettists hoped to create. The musical excitement of the opera’s conclusion appears to have no connection at all to the movements on stage at this supreme moment.

The leading singers at the second performance of the season were all good, though only Ferruccio Furlanetto’s King Philip held his own with memories of the Golden Age—my own personal Golden Age in this opera. Furlanetto growled and barked at first, then, in his two great duets (Posa in Act II; Grand Inquisitor in Act IV) and the sad monologue in his study that is the heart of the opera, began to soar and resonate: deep sound, clear and musical, but pulsing with thought. His way of removing his hat to wipe or clutch his brow at climaxes in the action was of a piece with this: very personal if not quite kingly. His burly dignity matched the dignity of his singing. He, and the viewer, never forgot he was the figure of power, however shattered—and which king it was, too, for like the real Philip II, he is always fiddling with papers, carrying his work about with him everywhere.

Roberto Alagna sang Carlo brashly and often beautifully. His “Io la vidi” seemed now and then to be shorter or longer than the proper placement of words on notes, as if he unconsciously remembered singing it in his native French (to which language the music was, after all, composed)—it is a pity that the opera has never been heard at the Met in the original tongue when it has been so heard in Boston, San Francisco and Seattle, to say nothing of Paris and Vienna.

Marina Poplavskaya produces a Verdi-sized sound of great depth and luster; it’s been a long time since we had such an Elisabetta. That said, the role is long and can tax the hardiest; in both her arias, Poplavskaya ran short of breath before the end. Her first duet with Carlo was promising, but her cries for justice in the study scene not especially effective. Sometimes she sounds wonderful and sometimes she is inaudible just when one would like her voice to emerge from the pack. It is a puzzling, interesting voice.

Anna Smirnova has the plummy Russian mezzo deep tones that make one think of Borodina, but Borodina could handle the high notes as well, and Smirnova is hit or miss: I wouldn’t trust her with Dalila or Carmen. Her Song of the Veil drew proper attention to herself, but she lacked both sensuality and wrath in the garden scene. “O don fatale” was her best work of the night, as it should be, but there were phrases produced inexactly, that flew off into the wings.

Good Posas can be vocally imposing (Merrill, Milnes) or thoughtfully so (Hynninen, Hampson, Alan Titus). Simon Keenlyside is an interesting Posa, an effective actor—if anything perhaps too individual for the courtier-confidante he must seem to be—with an ingratiating sound that does not quite fill the Met. He has to act harder because his voice simply can’t match Furlanetto or Alagna for power. As with his Hamlet, I felt that performing a role in smaller houses does not serve him well here. He should come to the Met, if he comes, in something he has not sung elsewhere.

Eric Halfvarson impressed as the Grand Inquisitor, Jennifer Check made an unusually able Celestial Voice (was she mic’d?), Layla Claire a pleasant Tebaldo, and Alexei Tarnovitsky a not very awe-inspiring Friar/Charles V.

Yannick Nézet-Séguin has a genuine feel for dramatic propulsion and kept the enormous work in constant motion. He has a graceful touch with a score that can be ponderous; he makes the melodies sing. Scene followed scene followed scene, but there was no slackening of tension, no moment when we were not savoring Verdi’s “tinta,” the specific color he devised for each of his operas, and were not eager to hear more.

Heidi Waleson, Wall Street Journal, 1.12.2010

If you know Verdi’s “Don Carlo” (1867) only from the Met’s 30-year-old John Dexter staging, the opera house’s stunning Nicholas Hytner production that had its New York premiere last week will make you know this magnificent score much better. (A co-production with the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, and the Norwegian National Opera & Ballet, it was first performed in London in 2008.) Designer Bob Crowley’s basic set is a series of massive black walls with rows of tiny square windows, a visual and visceral depiction of the prison that is the opera’s 16th-century Spain. King Philip II, who rules his empire with an iron fist, is in turn ruled by the Inquisition. This is a place of fire and swords. Heretics burn and traitors are killed, and anyone who resists authority is assumed to be one or the other. There is no room for mercy, gentleness, love or even friendship, and those who try to have those things are destroyed.

Ferruccio Furlanetto as Philip II and Roberto Alagna in the title role of Nicholas Hytner’s stunning production of Verdi’s ‘Don Carlo.’

Messrs. Hytner and Crowley, with Mark Henderson (lighting)—all making their Met debuts—have stripped away all ornamental flourishes. Everything is angular and black or red, lit to indicate gloom or bloodthirstiness. The exception is gold—the facade of Valladolid Cathedral and the private altar in Philip’s study, both symbolic of the wealth of the church, amassed through domination. The costumes are period but spare, and the human interactions explosive.

The libretto, based on a play by Friedrich Schiller, was originally in French, then translated into Italian. The opera went through numerous revisions; the Met’s production comes from the final 1886 five-act version in Italian, which includes the opening act in the forest of Fontainebleau, where Don Carlo, the crown prince of Spain, meets the French princess Elisabeth of Valois. The two are supposedly betrothed, but as soon as they fall in love, they find out that Philip has decided to marry Elisabeth himself. (Mr. Crowley did this snow scene in white, with bare trees, a contrast to the black and red of Spain; in a lovely final touch Elisabeth, wearing robe and crown, is carried off upstage in a litter, toward the lights of the palace, looking sadly back over her shoulder at Carlo.)

Back in Spain, Don Carlo cannot forget his love for Elisabeth; his friend, Rodrigo, the Marquis of Posa, enlists his support for Flanders, oppressed by Spain. Philip, who dislikes his son, suspects that Carlo and Elisabeth are lovers; the Princess of Eboli, whose love Carlo rejects, feeds this notion out of jealousy. Philip cultivates the friendship of the upright Posa, whom he respects in spite of Posa’s championing of Flanders, but the Grand Inquisitor undermines the relationship. Carlo confronts his father about the Flemish and is thrown in jail, and Philip signs the order for his execution. Posa takes his place in the prison, telling him to go and save Flanders, and is assassinated by the order of the Grand Inquisitor. Carlo escapes and meets Elisabeth at the monastery of St. Just, burial place of his grandfather, Charles V. As they say their final farewells, Philip arrives. In this production, the soldiers kill Carlo; in others, the mysterious monk (possibly the ghost of Charles V) carries him off.

Mr. Hytner’s tightly focused direction centered the opera on the tragic male triangle of Carlo, Posa and Philip. As Carlo, tenor Roberto Alagna got off to a rocky start vocally, but later settled into a convincing portrayal of an unstable man at the mercy of his emotions, the antithesis of Philip. His Act II encounter with Elisabeth, now married to his father, was unusually physical—it is clearly risky to manhandle the queen—and his championship of the Flemish in the auto-da-fé scene was played as a piece of filial defiance. His outsider status was reinforced by the production: For each quick set change, a wall with those prison-type windows descended, leaving him on the audience side, cut off from everyone else.

Posa can often seem too good to be true, but Simon Keenlyside made him real—intelligent, principled and unsentimental. There was sinew as well as beauty in his expressive baritone—no wonder Philip tries to enlist him as a kind of surrogate son. One of the most powerful scenes in the production was their Act II meeting, in which the splendid bass Ferrucio Furlanetto, as the harsh, intimidating Philip, slowly dropped his guard enough to offer Posa friendship and a glimpse of his own fears. That same slight hint of vulnerability also made Philip’s famous Act IV aria, in which he bemoans the fact that his wife doesn’t love him and he cannot read human hearts, more effective than an all-out wail. As the Grand Inquisitor, who arrives to pull Philip back to autocracy, bass Eric Halfvarson was remarkably creepy: Ancient and blind, with a hand tremor deliberately mirrored in his voice, he was clearly the power behind the throne.

The women did not have quite the same intensity. As Elisabeth, Marina Poplavskaya had a covered soprano that thinned out at the top, without much warmth or richness. She acted well, making the transition from the girl at Fontainebleau to the unhappy, buttoned-up queen who spends all her force trying to resist her feelings and do her duty. As Eboli, mezzo Anna Smirnova, making her house debut, had a lot of steel and volume but not much finesse.

The Met chorus, waving crosses, brought an exciting sense of mob fervor to the auto-da-fé scene; the condemned heretics, who did not sing, looked shockingly as though they’d been beaten into submission. The conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin, music director-designate of the Philadelphia Orchestra, led a remarkably vivid and fierce account of the score, conjuring up this world of harshness and brutality as well as the silken, soaring moments of pure beauty. With pinpoint control, he could let the orchestra howl and then pull it back to exactly where he wanted it. With two intermissions, this “Don Carlo” ran 4½ hours, and they flew by.

Christoph Huss, Le Devoir, 13.12.2010

L’aimant – Ferruccio Furlanetto en Philippe II triomphe dans le Don Carlo de Verdi dirigé par Yannick Nézet-Séguin

La seconde présence, après Carmen, de Yannick Nézet-Séguin dans la fosse du Metropolitan Opera était relayée dans les cinémas samedi. On y projetait en direct de la scène new-yorkaise l’immense Don Carlo de Verdi, marathon complexe, mêlant destinées personnelles et enjeux religieux et politiques dans l’Espagne de la seconde moitié du XVIe siècle.

Assurément, le chef québécois a tenu la distance dans cet ouvrage très contrasté. On l’a senti littéralement enivré par cette musique. On espère que les déploiements sonores ne se sont pas faits au détriment du plateau, car la diffusion au cinéma ne permet pas de juger des balances — nous l’avions vu par l’exemple dans Das Rheingold de Wagner, où le déficit de volume du chanteur incarnant Loge avait été rectifié.

Yannick Nézet-Séguin se souviendra sans doute toute sa vie de son premier Don Carlo. S’il retrouve un jour dans sa vie de chef un tel plateau, il pourra bénir le ciel. Plus encore que le Don Carlo animal de Roberto Alagna, Ferruccio Furlanetto en Philippe II est le véritable aimant de ce spectacle exceptionnel, qui conflue vers quatre duos majeurs, dont il est le centre. Duo politique avec Posa (immense Simon Keenlyside, véritablement possédé par son rôle), duo théâtral parternelo-politique avec son fils Carlo devant la cathédrale, duo politico-religieux avec le grand Inquisiteur (Eric Halfvarson, un autre géant…) et duo de la défiance, avec sa femme, Élisabeth. Outre ces scènes, Philippe II se voit confié par Verdi, au début de l’acte IV, l’un des plus beaux airs de l’histoire de l’opéra.

Ferruccio Furlanetto, que l’on croyait fatigué et sur le déclin, a chanté et incarné Philippe II avec une voix intacte et une force intérieure magnétique. La distribution masculine est idéale. La distribution féminine n’en est pas loin, avec la fine Marina Poplavskaya, en Élisabeth de Valois et Anna Smirnova, en princesse Eboli, amoureuse de Don Carlo.

La mise en scène de Nicholas Hytner est de celles visant à renouveler les spectacles du Met. L’équipe autour du metteur en scène anglais — quels costumes extraordinaires! — opère ce renouvellement avec tact et efficacité. Le seul bémol tient à l’éclairage, avec l’usage assez massif de projecteurs de poursuite (pointers) qui cernent les personnages. La technique demande, au cinéma, une précision accrue, ce qui ne fut pas toujours le cas. Un dernier mot pour saluer la pondération de Gary Halvorson, qui a mis en veilleuse ses habituelles forfanteries devant un spectacle aussi grand et limpide.

Paul E. Robinson, La Scena Musicale, 29.12.2010

Last season, Yannick Nézet-Séguin’s debut at the Met conducting Bizet’s Carmen was a huge success. Critics praised the production, the acting and singing of Elīna Garanča in the title role, as well as the exciting conducting.

This Carmen also became one of the hits of the season in the “Live at the Met in HD” series in movie theatres. And that wasn’t the end of it; Deutsche Grammophon recently released the DVD version – essentially the same HD broadcast – and more rave reviews are expected.

Nézet-Séguin Triumphs Again with Don Carlo

Not surprisingly, on the strength of his Carmen triumph, Nézet-Séguin was invited back for an encore, arguably to an even greater achievement! The production of Verdi’s Don Carlo in the “Live at the Met in HD” series, which I saw recently in Austin, Texas was glorious in nearly every respect – at least musically.

The principal members of the cast – Roberto Alagna, Marina Poplavskaya, Ferruccio Furlanetto, Simon Keenlyside and Anna Smirnova – gave unforgettable performances. Without a conductor who understands singers and drama, however, this wonderful but long and uneven opera can be tedious, to say the least.

Nézet-Séguin unleashed the full power of the Met orchestra when necessary, but he was also sensitive to the quiet moments, and brought great freedom to the phrasing in the score without distorting the line or impeding the drama.

Hytner, on the Other Hand…

Director Nicholas Hytner, the head of Britain’s National Theatre, who was making his Met debut with this production, appeared initially to be erring on the side of the “safe” and “traditional” until, in several problematic scenes, it became apparent that he was clearly out of his comfort zone with opera; for example, he gave us singers delivering difficult vocal passages from horizontal positions – a feat not only tough on the performers but also visually ridiculous!

Met Version Five Acts, Five Hours

Most opera buffs know that there are several versions of Don Carlo. It began as a five-act opera in French (1867). By 1884, after Verdi had tried out various revisions, it had morphed into a four-act Italian opera.

This new Met production was essentially the later Italian version with, as is often the case today, the “Fontainebleau” scene retained from the 1867 version; in other words, a five-act Italian opera with a running time (including two intermissions) of nearly five hours.

Its inordinate length notwithstanding, Don Carlo contains some of Verdi’s greatest music. King Philip’s soliloquy and the scene between Philip and the Grand Inquisitor (Act 4 Pt. 1) are musically highly original and dramatically powerful.

Verdi’s Double Bass Scoring Extraordinary

As a former double bass player, I am always attuned to what composers do with “my” instrument. Verdi often used the double bass for special effects, most notably in the last act of Otello.

In Don Carlo, the duet between Philip and the Grand Inquisitor – a duet between two bass voices, by the way – has music that is dark and menacing and Verdi has created a unique sound that is difficult even for professional musicians to analyze by ear. The slithery, slow-moving “tune” is played by basses, cellos, bassoons and contrabassoons. But there is a catch. While most eighteenth and nineteenth century composers assign basses and cellos the same notes – their parts usually look exactly the same on paper – musicians know that the double basses (this is why they are called double basses) are actually playing an octave below the cellos.

Because he wanted a special sound in this scene – the duet between Philip and the Grand Inquisitor – Verdi wrote the double bass part “up” an octave, which means that in this passage the basses and the cellos are playing the same notes at the same pitch, thereby producing a sound different from that which we normally hear from the combination of basses and cellos in a symphony orchestra.

The other instruments in this passage are three trombones playing chords, timpani and bass drum. This sensitivity to instrumental timbres is typical of the later Verdi scores. He had come a long way from the incessant “oom-pah-pah” of his early operas.

More Disconcerting Directorial Decisions from Hytner

The words Verdi set to music, however, are not always up to the same standard. Don Carlo abounds in blatantly risible dialogue and baffling episodes. For example, in the last scene of the opera an Old Friar (Il Frate) appears from inside the tomb of the long dead Charles V (Carlo Quinto), who reveals himself to be none other than Charles V himself or his ghost, and all the characters in the scene immediately recognize him as such. In Verdi’s opera, the Old Friar/Charles V saves young Don Carlo by taking him into the tomb, whereas in Schiller’s play, on which the opera is based, Don Carlo is captured and handed over to the Inquisition.

In Nicholas Hytner’s Met production, Don Carlo is killed by the soldiers who have come to arrest him. Verdi introduces Charles V in the last scene for the sole purpose of saving his grandson Don Carlos from certain death. Hytner changes Verdi’s ending by having Don Carlo die instead of being saved by Charles V. Why then is Charles V needed in this scene?

Certainly many are baffled by this apparently gratuitous supernatural element Verdi tacked on to the end of the opera. Once Hytner decided to change it (to make it more plausible? More realistic?), why did he not at least go all the way and make everything consistent?

The Old Friar had appeared briefly earlier in the opera as a sort of keeper of the tomb, and in the final scene in this production he returns looking exactly the way he appeared earlier, that is, as an Old Friar. It is a laughable moment indeed to have all the characters point to him and shout “It’s Charles V!” or ‘My father!” etc. as if they have all lost their minds.

Hytner should either have dressed the Old Friar like Charles V and had him rescue Don Carlo as Verdi and his librettists had intended, or let Don Carlo be killed by his tormentors and let the Old Friar take the rest of the night off.

Instead, Hytner jumbled everything together and made a directorial shambles of a great opera. I had serious doubts about Hytner as early as the opening scene, in which we had Elisabeth de Valois wandering around the Fontainebleau Forest in the depths of winter in a skimpy dress while everyone in her entourage was bundled up in fur coats and hats.

Doesn’t anyone check these things? It seems to me sometimes that the folks who inhabit opera houses are living in a parallel universe. “It may not make any sense,” they say, “but what the heck, this is opera.”

While I am on the subject of what works and what doesn’t, there is also the infamous auto-da-fé scene in which heretics are publically burned at the stake. It is a tasteless scene by any standard, rendered even more unpalatable by Verdi’s music, much of which could have been used in the triumphal scene in Aïda. The music is grand but without the qualities of horror and cruelty required by the drama; nonetheless, this is a scene that would benefit enormously from the attention of a director versed in contemporary theatrical realism. Hytner gave us pretty much what we always see, which is bits of processions to nowhere, and lots of highly-stylized writhing of prisoners accompanied by not very menacing guards and priests.

Lead Voices in Fine Form

In addition to the outstanding work of Nézet-Séguin – as a proud Canadian I am admittedly somewhat biased – this production features one of the signature portrayals on the operatic stage today, Ferruccio Furlanetto as King Philip.

Furlanetto has been singing the role for more than 25 years and every time out he seems to get better. He was remarkable in Karajan’s Salzburg production in 1986 (preserved on a Sony DVD) and today at the age of 61, both vocally and dramatically, he is astonishing. His power and authority is frightening in his early scenes and in his soliloquoy he reveals at last his human side. In the scene with the Grand Inquisitor – Eric Halfvarson making this horrible creature even more hideous than usual – he asserts his terrible authority as best he can, but knows he cannot take on the Catholic church. Furlanetto gave us that rarity in grand opera, a complete character.

Russian soprano Marina Poplavskaya also made a strong impression in this performance as Elisabetta. Her voice is not large and her demeanor can seem cold and inexpressive, but the beauty of her voice and her control of phrasing is remarkable.

Robert Alagna as Don Carlo was also in great form. His voice had both strength and beauty and he was quite convincing as both an idealist and a man of action. Simon Keenlyside as Rodrigo cut a handsome figure and sang with assurance.

FP, Opernglas, 1/2010

translation will follow as soon as possible


Wenn die Figur des Marquis von Posa in Verdis »Don Carlo« von der Regie vielschichtig angelegt ist, wird rasch deutlich, warum er zum wichtigsten Gegenspieler der Inquisitionsmacht im katholischen Spanien wird. Simon Keenlyside ist nach der Londoner Premiere der von Nicholas Hytner in den oft zu schwarz und dunkel empfundenen Dekorationen und Kostümen von Bob Crowley (Oslo war ebenfalls koproduzierend) auch bei der New Yorker Premiere an der Met der differenziert singende und agierende Baritonstar, der die Freiheit Flanderns als sein oberstes Ziel bis zu seiner Ermordung konsequent verfolgt und auch die Freundschaft zum spanischen Infanten dazu benutzt. Neben Ferruccio Furlanetto als König Philipp (ebenfalls in London bereits dabei), Marina Poplovskaya als stimmlich zart fokussierende Elisabeth, der man die Zuneigung zum jungen Titelhelden leicht abnahm, und Roberto Alagna, der nach kurzer Anlaufschwierigkeit die Homogenität der Besetzung als kultivierter Carlo komplettierte, fiel lediglich Anna Smirnova aus dem Rahmen, deren Stimme oft zu wild und unkontrolliert wirkte bei ihrem Met-Debüt als Eboli. Auch Yannick Nezet-Seguin zeigte am Pult des Met-Orchesters noch Entwicklungspotenziale auf. Die rein orchestralen Passagen gelangen bereits brillant, die Aufführung geriet flüssig und oft elegant; vielleicht findet er mit fortschreitender Entwicklung noch zu einer eigenständigeren Sicht der Partitur.

Michael Shmith, Sydney Morning Herald, 11.1.2011

AS OPERAS go, you don’t get grander than Verdi’s Don Carlo. Yet his drama, based on Schiller’s epic play of the Spanish Inquisition in the reign of Philip II, is as much about individuals with conflicted lives and responsibilities. It was once said the opera required six of the finest voices in the world: the Metropolitan Opera has kindly obliged.

But Don Carlo also requires a production that casts essential light into the gloom and doom of the Spanish court. Nicholas Hytner, the director of London’s Royal National Theatre, focuses the drama with innate skill – as does Bob Crowley’s shadowy, church-and-state-like sets – while showing the utmost respect for Verdi’s long and lyrical score, performed here mostly uncut, including the crucial opening Fontainebleau act. Similarly, the conductor, Yannick Nezet-Seguin, brings unfailing depth and continuity to this masterly score; the magnificent Metropolitan Opera Orchestra responds with clarity, majesty and beauty.

Yes, the singers. Roberto Alagna’s Carlo is honey-toned, with the right French edge to his tone (Verdi wrote the opera for Paris), and I doubt if there is a finer, purer-voiced Elisabeth de Valois singing today than the Russian soprano Marina Poplavskaya.

As her treacherous rival, Eboli, Anna Smirnova brings a true mezzo sound. The great Italian bass Ferruccio Furlanetto is a superb King Philip, ably matched by Eric Halfvarson’s creepy-crawly Grand Inquisitor. But Simon Keenlyside’s Marquis de Posa is the most extraordinarily vivid, dramatic performance: he catches exactly his character’s proud idealism and fierce, generous heart.

This is simply unmissable. In fact, if I had another 5½ hours to spare, I’d be there again. Bravi, all round!

Paul Boekkooi, Independent Online, 11.1.2011

Interpersonal relations make Don Carlo magical

To opera connoisseurs it is common knowledge that the prerequisite for a production of Verdi’s Don Carlo is a modest, hand-picked clutch of the greatest singers in the world.

This first production of arguably the composer’s greatest opera at New York’s Met after an absence of more than 30 years, nearly clinched it. The performance of the matinée on December 11 (filmed in HD) at times reflects, musically and dramatically, a Shakespearean allure which is seldom achieved, even when Verdi’s Macbeth, Otello or Falstaff reach the operatic stage.

Verdi is above all a musical dramatist. In Friedrich Schiller’s verse drama of 1787, Don Carlo, the composer and his librettists, Joseph Méry and Camille du Locle, found the ideal material for him to extend the basic spectrum he already handled so well in the operatic adaptation of the two serious Shakespearean dramas. Like the latter playwright, Schiller took liberties with the history he des-cribed to enhance its dramatic potential.

Here a kaleidoscope of themes vies for attention. Central is the protest of the individual against the crushing demands of a tyrannical state, which is subject to the authority and control of an all powerful (Roman) Catholic universe: patriarchal, and wielded below from above.

Among the sombre splendour, mysticism, religious fervour and harrowing manipulation we find in Don Carlo, Verdi also managed to identify and secure the kind of characters from whom he could elicit the richest possible exploration of psychological complexity.

It is on this level that this produc-tion works its magic through the interpersonal communicative intensity established by British stage director Nicholas Hytner. It is light years removed from the kind of clichéd cardboard characters com-bined with wooden movements we still too often experience on operatic stages.

In the taxing title role, tenor Roberto Alagna sings most of the time with a full-throated intensity. It’s a pity that an arresting phraseo-logy and feeling for rich colouristic word painting is too seldom part of it. Carlo’s ill-adjusted neurotic personality was not strongly in evidence either.

Still, Alagna managed the tour de force prerequisite.

Marina Poplavskaya elicits special vocal qualities as Elisabeth. She’s not a conventional Verdi singer, but one with the kind of musical sensibilities, which often reflect different qualities from prescribed norms. Dramatically she suggests a wide range of emotions.

The Italian bass Ferruccio Furlanetto has regal stature combined with an often-deep, stentorian voice to make the Spanish King Philip a justly feared figure. However, his vulnerability as expressed in the inspired recitative and aria during the first scene of Act IV, was an illuminating piece of three-dimensional dramatic charac-terisation, oozing introverted and critical self-examination.

As in his portrayal of the title role in Ambroise Thomas’s opera Hamlet in April, Simon Keenlyside as Rodrigo brought a theatrical intensity full of contrasts to his role. On a dramatic and vocal level his forthright focus on the essential feature of varied emotions was evident. At times he was Iago-like, but without the shady, villainous side.

Far less successful is the casting of Anna Smirnova in the role of Princess Eboli. She gives a too generalised reading of the part, often too raw, punchy and Slavic sounding, and lacking the sensual subtle inflections Verdi requires.

A terrifying scene was the sinister to-and-fro conflict between King Philip and the Great Inquisitor, sung by the bass Eric Halvarsen. It’s also magnificent thanks to Verdi’s punctuated orchestration.

Bob Crowley’s economical sets and costume designs in combination with Mark Henderson’s lighting are awesome. The production’s vigour is driven by the amazing French-Canadian conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin, who inspires the orchestra, singers and chorus to the highest levels, while the nobility, breadth and the subtle colouring of the score is in evidence from Act III onwards. – Tonight.

F. Paul Driscoll, Opera News, Feb 2011

Nicholas Hytner’s staging of Don Carlo — previously reviewed in OPERA NEWS in its Covent Garden incarnations in 2008 and 2009, and also upon its release as a DVD — arrived at the Met on November 22. Handsomely designed by Bob Crowley (sets and costumes) and Mark Henderson (lighting) — both making their company debuts, as was Hytner — the Met’s new production is a distinguished realization of Verdi’s masterpiece. Don Carlo has been one of the company’s signature works since 1950, when Margaret Webster’s production inaugurated Rudolf Bing’s tenure as general manager and reestablished the company’s still-current reputation as a Verdi house of the highest caliber.

Like Webster — and John Dexter, whose 1979 Don Carlo staging served the Met for ninety-four performances until it was retired in 2006 — Hytner has the theatrical acumen to keep Verdi’s characters in sharp focus as they maneuver through the intrigues and pageantry of the Spanish court. The scenes in the monastery of St. Just were especially admirable, with just the right dank atmosphere; less effective were the scene in the queen’s garden and the auto-da-fé, both undermined by rather awkward deployment of the invaluable Met chorus. The five-act version of the opera Hytner uses is similar to that used by the Dexter production, with some important exceptions: the Act I scene with the woodcutters is omitted, leaving the exact political context for Elisabetta’s dilemma somewhat murky, and Hytner has Carlo die of wounds received in a swordfight at the monastery, with the connection between “A Friar” and Emperor Charles V left unresolved at the close of Act V.

Best of the opening-night cast was Ferruccio Furlanetto, in voice, manner and mien a magnificent Filippo. Roberto Alagna’s charisma and generosity made him an appealing Don Carlo, but one could not ignore his graceless attacks on high notes and frequent lapses in intonation. Simon Keenlyside invested his Rodrigo with intelligence, integrity and imagination, bringing a lieder singer’s phrasing to his Act II conversation with the king, but the role seemed a size large for him, especially as paced by Yannick Nézet-Séguin, whose conducting was occasionally hasty and lacking in the gravitas needed to realize the full power of the scenes at Valladolid Cathedral and in the king’s study. Eric Halfvarson was a brilliantly effective Grand Inquisitor: his long, slow exit in the confrontation with Filippo was one of Hytner’s most telling bits of staging. Layla Claire, in her company debut, contributed a Tebaldo of charm and wit; Anna Smirnova, another debutante, sang noisily and acted coarsely as Eboli.

Marina Poplavskaya, an artist just beginning to acquire the attention in New York that she has already earned in London, Moscow and other European capitals, was an Elisabetta di Valois of striking physical grace. A cool, conscientious actress, Poplavskaya was at her best in Act IV: the dismissal of Eboli was delivered with chilling, impressively queenly authority. A fine musician, she used her voice shrewdly throughout the evening, achieving some striking effects in her Act I duet with Carlo, but as yet her lyric soprano lacks the heft and range of color needed to maintain profile in Don Carlo‘s large-scale ensembles.

Horacio Tomalino, Munocclasico.com, 14.2.2011

Es muy difícil de comprender por qué la dirección del MET se ha empeñado en reemplazar producciones de éxito confirmado por nuevas propuestas escénicas que no sólo no aportan absolutamente nada nuevo, sino que por el contrario disminuyen el nivel de calidad de la compañía. En esta ocasión, los vientos renovadores recayeron sobre la bellísima producción que John Dexter firmó para el Don Carlos de Verdi hace tres décadas y que fue reemplazada por la anodina y aburrida propuesta escénica del inglés Nicholas Hytner que el MET ha coproducido junto al Covent Garden de Londres y la Ópera Nacional Noruega.

De innegables y reconocibles meritos en el campo teatral, Nicholas Hytner no obtuvo en su debut en la casa como director de escena un desempeño digno de elogios. Muy por el contrario, el inexistente tratamiento que Hytner dio a los caracteres individuales de los personajes hizo que las cuatro horas y media que duró el espectáculo se convirtieran en una eternidad. Tampoco ayudó la discreta escenografía de Bob Crowley, ni la menos que básica dirección lumínica de Mark Henderson para sacar adelante un espectáculo que hizo agua por los cuatro costados.

Afortunadamente, el elenco supo estar a la altura de las circunstancias. Como el Infante Don Carlos, Roberto Alagna tuvo una gran noche. La brillantez de su bien esmaltado timbre, la eficiencia de sus portentosos agudos y un fraseo modélico tanto por lo expresivo como por lo cuidado de su estilo le dieron a la velada momentos de superlativo buen canto. Buenos ejemplos del heroísmo, la entrega y credibilidad que el tenor francés imprimió a su canto pudieron oírse en los dúos que lo tuvieron como protagonista, ya sea junto al barítono Simon Keenlyside como en aquellos en lo que compartió escena con la soprano Marina Poplavskaya.

La otra figura de la noche fue Ferruccio Furlanetto, quien pletórico de medios compuso con voz exuberante, notable línea de canto y una muy depurada técnica un Felipe II de gran nobleza y autoridad. Su aria ‘Ella giammai m’amo…’ fue uno de los momentos más celebrados por el público y de mayor nivel artístico de la noche y esto debido, en buena medida, al gran poder de comunicación y la intensa expresividad que el bajo italiano puso de manifiesto a la hora de retratar el perfil psicológico del monarca español.

Cantante de contundentes dones e intérprete sensible y refinado, Simon Keenlyside dio vida a un Rodrigo de palpable aristocracia que fue creciendo a medida que fue avanzando la ópera para consagrarse definitivamente en el aria ‘Per me giunto’, donde encandiló ya no solo por su bello esmalte, su impecable emisión y su solida musicalidad, sino por la conmovedora fuerza interpretativa con la cual fue cincelando los últimos momentos de vida del Marqués de Posa.

Menos convincente resultó el bajo Eric Halfvarson, quien como el Gran Inquisidor hizo una prestación muy irregular dando más la sensación de que estaba declamando que cantando.

En lo que respecta a las voces femeninas, Marina Poplavskaya encarnó con aplomo y sólidos medios una muy digna Elisabetta de Valois. Poseedora de una voz amplia, mórbida y rica en matices, la soprano rusa alcanzo el cenit de su desempeño en la primera parte de la ópera -su aria ‘Non piangere mia compagna…’ fue todo un dejado de virtuosismo- para luego ir decayendo en su rendimiento en lo que quedó de la ópera.

Si bien la debutante mezzosoprano rusa Anna Smirnova logró salir airosa a las exigencias de la parte de la princesa de Eboli gracias a una voz suntuosa, oscura y potente, no puede dejar de lamentarse su falta de refinamiento, su deficiente técnica que la puso en más de un aprieto a la hora de controlar su voz, y su excesiva frialdad ante los acontecimientos que la tienen como protagonista.

Tanto Layla Claire como el paje de la reina Tebaldo, y Jennifer Cleck como la voz del cielo, resultaron ser dos comprimarios de lujo.

Reemplazando a Roberto Alagna en la mitad de las representaciones, el tenor surcoreano Younghoon -quien también hizo su debut en el MET en esta ocasión- lució un voz bien timbrada, compacta y de agudo fácil, pero su falta de naturalidad, su excesiva concentración por los aspectos técnicos de su canto y sobre todo su total indiferencia por darle a las frases la mínima expresión, terminaron desmereciendo su prestación.

Una grata impresión dejó el bajo italiano Giorgio Giusseppini, quien debió reemplazar en la última representación a un Furlanetto aquejado de gripe, y resultó solvente y bien plantado en su rol.

El coro de la entidad que dirigió el Mtro. Donald Palumbo tuvo una de las mejores intervenciones en lo que va de la temporada.

Al frente de la vertiente musical, obtuvo un muy merecido éxito personal el director quebeco Yannick Nézet-Séguin, quien en todo momento mostró un minucioso conocimiento y solvencia en su lectura de la partitura verdiana al frente de una orquesta que supo estar a la altura de su empeño y de la que obtuvo una versión en perfecto estilo, dinámica y siempre con la justa tensión teatral.

2010 Don Carlo New York banner 2

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

asperia December 12, 2010 at 10:45 pm

fragonard, the dying scene of Rodrigo, that was really brilliant, Simon Keenlyside is really a great singer, one of the best singers of the world now, and maybe, even more one of the best actors among the opera singers in the history. his singing at the end was really divine, yesterday.

asperia December 5, 2010 at 10:36 am

i envy everybody who have already seen it. i believe Simon will be great in the live in hd transmission, and on the screen there will be details that you can´t see in the theatre and he is such a good actor. i think he could have become an actor if he hadnt become such a singer:-)

fragonard: “It was never really singing together with Mr. Alagna.” ???? what does that mean? could you explain?
i loved his performance in Hamlet.
i think he was better in the MEt Hamlet than on the DVD Hamlet with Dessay as well, i think he keeps improving, he is a very admirable singer that works on himself.

fragonard November 27, 2010 at 4:58 pm

I am so glad that I saw it yesterday again. Alagna was wonderful, although what I said before about the duets is still true . Simon was simply glorious. His soft and rich voice was filling the audience easily and his presence was totally commanding in every scene. I’ve seen many Posas in my life, but that was truly one of the best. I hope he is as good on the 11th

fragonard November 25, 2010 at 8:22 pm

I heard Simon last year in the premiere in Covent Garden and last Monday at the Met : I think he and Jonas Kaufmann were a far better match than he and Roberto Alagna, especially since Mr. Alagna in the wonderful dio nell’ alma infondere did not seem quite to grasp the concept of a duet and that singing louder does not mean singing better. He was relentlessly overpowering Simon versus I still hear the wonderful soft and lyrical phrases Mr. Kaufmann and Simon were creating in this duet. It was never really singing together with Mr. Alagna. At times Simon seemed a little bit underpowered as the opera went on, but the Met is simply there is no other way to say it a vast space. Also I never had the feeling that he was underpowered in his unforgettable Hamlet here last spring, HIs voice is on the leaner side but the integrity and musicality he brings to the role is wonderful. Now comes the best: His death scene was absolutely amazing, better than the one I saw in Covent Garden and better than the one on DVD. It still gives me the chills.
Just this scene made it worth to see the whole opera, which is by the way one of my favorites.

asperia November 24, 2010 at 5:04 pm

I believe the reviews that praise SImon, so far. and everybody will see who is right on the 11.dezember.

Bill Palik November 24, 2010 at 7:05 am

I am happy to see words like “finesse” and “elegance” used in describing Simon’s Rodrigo, even when some reviewers say he is sometimes “overtaxed” in the role at the Met. Luckily, when millions hear him in the simulcast, he will have the advantage of the leveling effect of the new medium, which mixes and matches sound levels for the benefit of the audiences in theaters around the world. The most glowing review I have seen so far comes from The Classical Review, whose critic writes “Carlo was sung by Roberto Alagna, his revolutionary friend Rodrigo by Simon Keenlyside. Alagna’s appearance had been much anticipated but, echoing events in the opera, the true heir to Furlanetto’s vocal reign seemed to be Keenlyside. The English baritone was in glorious form, making the most of Verdi’s luscious melodies and producing a warm, vibrant tone even when he sang the beginning of Io morra lying face-down on the floor.” Bravo, Simon!!
Bill Palik

diana jones November 23, 2010 at 1:15 am

As I write this I am listening to the live audio transmission of the first night of Don Carlo courtesy of the Metplayer. Simon, of course, is in fine voice,and this seems to be an excellent production. The rest of the cast, too, sound wonderful. Thanks to the Met for this transmission,and I can’t wait for the cinema showing next month! Diana.

diana jones October 9, 2010 at 11:25 am

Hi all. For all SK fans in the Midlands, and those prepared to travel there, I’ve just found out that the Met performance of Don Carlo on December 11th is to be broadcast live at The Lighthouse Centre in Wolverhampton at 5.30pm. I believe it’s a fairly small venue (in a converted lock factory)so book early! Diana.

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