Euronews, 02/11/2017
Verdi's rarely staged French version of 'Don Carlos'
Opera superstars Sonya Yoncheva and Jonas Kaufmann are opening the season at Paris’ Opéra Bastille with Verdi’s ‘Don Carlos’.

This sober production of ‘Don Carlos’ is staged by acclaimed Polish director Krzysztof Warlikowski. He chose to focus on the personal drama of the characters struggling with the tumult and violence of power.

“It’s a very plain production,” says Yoncheva. “We are faithful to the text, faithful to the story and totally faithful to the characters’ psychological state.”

“For us who are taking on the roles, that approach was absolutely necessary because it helped us strip naked without limits and really be ourselves.”

Jonas Kaufmann has taken on the role of Don Carlos many times in Italian, but it’s the first time he’s doing it in the original version.

“Yes, I’m playing a great hero, again. Of course, I have often sung Don Carlos, it’s not the first time, but it’s the first time I’m doing it in French, and that’s a game-changer.”

“It is incredibly difficult for me, and I have been talking with my colleagues who agree that it’s so much more difficult to perform this piece in French. Not because you have to learn it in French, but because the rhythm is different. There are added musical elements and, especially for me as a tenor, almost every time there is high note, the word ends with an -E or a -U, which are incredibly uncomfortable vowels to sing. It makes it really difficult to sing this work.”

On Krzysztof Warlikowski interpretation of the opera, Kaufmann told Euronews: “(It) has helped me uncover new aspects of this character, this crazy Don Carlos character.”

An acclaimed soprano highly in demand on the world stage, Sonya Yoncheva says: “Verdi came from the theatre. He did a great job integrating theatre into opera and into music. For us singers, it’s not only a pleasure singing his work but also interpreting it. For me, as an artist, it’s truly a privilege to sing Verdi today.”
Euronews, 02/11/2017
Kaufmann and Yoncheva star in Verdi's 'Don Carlos'
It’s Verdi’s darkest and most epic masterpiece: ‘Don Carlos’ is opening the season at the Opéra Bastille in Paris – an opera about love, idealism, betrayal and conspiracy set in 16th century Spain.

Acclaimed tenor Jonas Kaufmann is the title lead with soprano superstar Sonya Yoncheva debuting as his unfulfilled love Élisabeth.

“It’s a great love story between her and Don Carlo… There’s this temptation, this passion that’s seething between them and will never be fulfilled,” says Yoncheva.

To mark the 150th anniversary of the opera’s premiere in Paris, it is being shown in its original version: Verdi first wrote it to a French libretto, reworking the score over two decades – though it is best known today in its Italian translation.

This is the first time that the masterpiece is performed at the Paris Opéra in French in three decades.

For Kaufmann, singing ‘Don Carlos’ in French for the first time is a real challenge.

“It’s different in the French language,” says Jonas Kaufmann. “The characters are gentler, more delicate. It almost feels like it’s all less dramatic, because the French language is a little more subtle, a little more delicate than the more fleshy Italian language.”

This marks Yoncheva’s debut as Élisabeth.

“It’s a lyrical role, a complete role… filled with many colours,” says the soprano. “There is this magnificent aria… It’s a time for thought, an intimate moment for Élisabeth.”

Verdi based his epic five-act opera on a play by Friedrich Schiller. To Kaufmann’s regret, the opera contains no major solos for the lead role.

“What would I say to Verdi if I had attended the premiere 150 years ago?,” he repeats as we asks him the question. “It’s particularly interesting because Verdi had initially intended to compose a big aria for Don Carlos in the 5th act, but when he met the tenor he was so disatisfied with him that he changed his mind and wrote an aria for Élisabeth instead. So I would have said to him: ‘Please write an aria for the tenor, I mean, after all, the opera is called ‘Don Carlos’!’,” he exclaims in a burst of laughter.

In his sober production, director Krzysztof Warlikowski seeks to explore the psychology of Don Carlos’ character, an unstable and diffident man as seen through flickering cinema and video projections. On this complex character and the inevitable outcome of the tragedy, Kaufmann says: “You almost get the feeling that Verdi has found a way of opening up the heavens, and there are these stairs leading up. And both know it can only end in death.”

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