, 11 May 2013
Verdi: Don Carlo, Royal Opera House London, 4. Mai 2013
A triumph for the Royal Opera: This magnificent Don Carlo is excellent in all departments
At last – a triumph for the Royal Opera.
After a season of disappointments, with too many misfiring revivals, this magnificent Don Carlo is excellent in all departments.
The star is, of course, Jonas Kaufmann as the 16th Century Spanish prince, but he is surrounded by a veritable Milky Way of other shining lights.
Anja Harteros is radiantly sophisticated as his love interest, Elizabeth, so much better than the pallid Marina Poplavskaya, who partnered Kaufmann here in 2009.
She looks good too, as does the Eboli of French debutante Beatrice Uria-Monzon.
All too often this mezzo role is assigned to old boilers, but Uria-Monzon cuts a glamorous figure, and no doubt her vocal command, which didn’t please everyone, will improve as the run progresses.
Don Carlo is a sort of Hamlet figure, infirm of purpose, and committed to fluffing his chances, for instance, to kill Eboli before she betrays him, or to assassinate his father, King Philip II, when the mob hangs back instead of arresting Don Carlo as the King demands.
Kaufmann is sufficient an actor to convey Don Carlo’s inadequacies, while at the same time sounding heroic in every line he sings.
For me he is fast becoming an artist of historic significance, well matched here by Mariusz Kwiecien as his friend, the heroic Posa, and by Ferruccio Furlanetto as a careworn King.
Furlanetto is one of those rare basses who can reach down to any note, however low, with a formidable amplitude that fills the house.
Kwiecien won perhaps the biggest ovation of the night for his fine portrayal of the young patriot who lays down his life for Don Carlo.
Eric Halvorson pluckily sang through a cold to convey most of the awfulness of the blind old Grand Inquisitor.
Nick Hytner’s 2008 production wears well in this revival by Paul Higgins.
It’s faithful to Verdi’s intentions, and Bob Crowley’s sets strike an attractive balance between the traditional and the modern.
Only the Monty Python-ish auto-da-fé scene – in which the pointy-hatted heretics being paraded look like Ku Klux Klan trainees – sounds an unintentionally farcical note.
In the pit Tony Pappano contributes a vivid account of Verdi’s great score, while proving yet again that the orchestra never plays as well for anyone else.
Irritatingly, this magnificent production isn’t going into cinemas. Why ever not?