I have loved opera for many years now, and Don Carlo has been a firm favourite. It may be a problematic opera, but essentially due to how compelling the characters are and how magnificent the music is the opera is a masterpiece.
This is a very good production, albeit not a perfect one. My favourite productions are the 1983/4 Met production(Domingo, Freni, Ghiaurov, Bumbry, Quillico and Furlanetto), 1980 Met production(Moldoveanu, Scotto, Milnes, Troyanos, Plishka and Hines) and the 1996 Chatelet production(Alagna, Hampson, Mattila, Meier, Vam Dam and Halvarson).
My least favourite, and the only one I didn't think much of was the 2005 one with Vargas, Michael, Tamar, Miles, Skovhus and Lang, the ridiculous staging spoilt it for me.
There are only two performances that didn't work for me. One was Sonia Ganassi. Good acting, suitably fiery and a beautiful O Don Fatale, but I wasn't always convinced Ganassi was the vindictive yet sad princess. Her chest voice lacks the dark weight I've heard from the likes of Baltsa and Bumbry, her Veil Song lacks style and her ornamentations are clunky.
The other is Rolando Villazon as Carlo, now I know Carlo is a taxing role but I have heard Villazon sing and perform this role better than this in the 2004 production with Lloyd and Croft as Phillip and Posa. There are moments of beautiful phrasing and sensitive acting, but at many other times he sounds vocally over-tensed and his acting in the more dramatic scenes seem really frenzied.
The rest of the cast are much better though. Simon Keenlyside is a charismatic and noble Posa and he sings beautifully. Marina Poplavskaya is a poignant and dutiful Elisabetta, while Elisabetta doesn't have the wonderful attention to detail seen in the recent Met production, she has several sublime moments, especially Tu Che Le Vanita with its ringing pianissimos and affecting pathos.
Eric Halvarson is in much better voice here than he was in the Met production where he sounded woolly, perhaps in an attempt to make him sound older. And here he is genuinely intimidating in his acting, making his big scene with Furlanetto a clash of the titans moment as it should be.
Best of all is Ferrucio Furlanetto. He is magnificent playing the scary yet intelligent and conflicted king and his Ella Giammai M'ammo is just heart-breaking here.
The costumes and sets are colourful without being too bright to spoil the mood, the staging is very good, the camera work shows skill and the orchestra playing and conducting from Antonio Pappano are superb.
All in all, very good if not absolutely flawless. 8/10 Bethany Cox
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