Opera News, November 2013
Verdi: Don Carlo, Salzburger Festspiele, 25. August 2013
Salzburg - Don Carlo (8/25/13) 
The best show I saw was Don Carlo, the festival's homage to the other composer who was born 200 years ago (seen Aug. 25). Not that it was without fault: Ferdinand Wögerbauer's spartan sets reminded me of Ikea, the Swedish chain of furniture stores, rather than the Spanish court. And was it really necessary to revive the five-act French grand opéra with all its longueurs instead of the more concise Italian version, particularly since the work was sung in Italian anyway? The only thing we had been spared, when we staggered home after more than five hours, was the ballet.

That said, Peter Stein's production was straightforward, faithful to the text and gripping. He had a brilliant cast at his disposal. Jonas Kaufmann in the title role proved again that nobody beats him in the department of desperate lovers. Matti Salminen, as his father, the king, and Thomas Hampson, as his friend Posa, may have lost some of their vocal sheen, but both were still deeply satisfying. There was a soupçon of stridency in Anja Harteros's voice, but she was a lovely queen. The best singing came from Ekaterina Semenchuk's sumptuous Eboli. Eric Halfvarson was an authoritative Grand Inquisitor.

The hero of the evening, though, was the conductor. After the two previous disappointments from other maestros at this year's festival, Antonio Pappano proved that a perfect balance between stage and pit is possible and that the Vienna Philharmonic, in the right hands, is the best opera orchestra of the world.

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