A sensation at Covent Garden in 1994. This production of the original five act Don Carlos (in French) achieved the perfect combination of a homogeneous ensemble of international celebrities and eased the passage of Antonia Pappano into his current position as musical director of the Royal Opera House.
The video is a faithful transcription (i.e. not too much close-up) of Gilles Aillaud's brilliantly designed production for Luc Bondy originally at the Theatre du Chatelet, Paris. The simple sets are uncluttered and carefully lit and there are surprising sequences of magic-realism including a final sequence played as an unashamed and infallible tear-jerker.
But such an opera lives or dies by its cast of singers. All are immersed in their character to the exclusion of self-aggrandisement (Thomas Hampson even agrees to wear a wig which might count as the one flaw in the show). I succumb most readily to Jose van Dam's terribly burdened King Philip and Karita Mattila's impossibly good Elisabetta. Unbeatable in any respect. 8/10
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