Opera Now, October 2013
Robert Turnbull
Verdi: Don Carlo, Salzburger Festspiele, August 2013
Don Carlo - Salzburg 
For Verdi's Don Carlo, on the other hand, you can't go far wrong with a lineup that includes Anja Harteros, Jonas Kaufmann, Matti Salminen and the Russian mezzo Ekaterina Semenchuk, saving her considerable power for Princess Eboli's 'O don fatale'. Both 'Tu the le vanità' and Elizabeth's final duet with Carlos were utterly sublime. Thomas Hampson as Posa showed he has lost some of his treacly tone; and he was the victim of bad timing, falling to his death before the fatal shot was actually fired!

It was interesting to hear yet another version of this opera — including the 'lachrymosa' duet between Carlos and his father.Tony Pappano, a conductor dedicated to revealing the beauty and power of this glorious score, conducted the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra in opera for the first time.

Anyone present at his risible Salzburg production of Verdi's Macbeth in 2011 may wonder if Peter Stein is cynically milking the Festival's massive budget. Then, as in this Don Carlo, there wasn't a single original idea and much that was either very bad or unintentionally funny, or both. Such ineptitude creates nostalgia for the Festival's better days when Intendant
Gerard Mortier used Herbert Wernicke to direct grand operas such as Don Carlo and Boris Godunov to much greater effect. In the great 'auto-da-fé' scene, the chorus behaved like village idiots on bonfire night. When it was time to burn the penitents there was an almighty bang and a big puff of smoke before they turned on the 'video flames'. It was tempting really to set fire to the drab, colour-coordinated costumes and the cliched sets of whitewashed walls, black railings and statues in plazas.

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