[Met Performance] CID:204090
Don Carlo {65} Metropolitan Opera House: 10/7/1965.

(Debuts: Grace Bumbry, Margaret Kalil

Metropolitan Opera House
October 7, 1965
In Italian

Giuseppe Verdi--François Joseph Méry/Camille du Locle

Don Carlo...............Bruno Prevedi
Elizabeth of Valois.....Raina Kabaivanska
Rodrigo.................Ettore Bastianini
Princess Eboli..........Grace Bumbry [Debut]
Philip II...............Jerome Hines
Grand Inquisitor........Justino Díaz
Celestial Voice.........Margaret Kalil [Debut]
Friar...................Louis Sgarro
Tebaldo.................Mary Ellen Pracht
Count of Lerma..........Gabor Carelli
Countess of Aremberg....Sally Brayley
Herald..................Robert Nagy

Conductor...............Thomas Schippers

Production..............Margaret Webster
Stage Director..........Bodo Igesz
Designer................Rolf Gérard

Translation by Lauzières, Zanardini

Don Carlo received nine performances this season.

Review of Irving Kolodin in the Saturday Review.
Verdi's "Don Carlo" is such an uncommonly grand opera that its recurrence after a lapse of time tends to rouse mingled feelings of hope for the best and fear for the worst (which is to have it treated like just another commonly "grand" opera). What is best about it, however, is strongly in ascendance at its current reappearance in Metropolitan Opera's repertory, thanks to a fruitful combination of old and new singers, but in even larger part to the fresh influence of Thomas Schippers as conductor. It may, before he is through with it, mark his best accomplishment at the Metropolitan to date.

A portent of things to come was provided by the moody, well-balanced sound of the horn passage in the brief prelude to the first scene. It testified both to the conductor's awareness of the importance Verdi attached to this little curtain-raiser and the consequential part that orchestral color plays in the drama as a whole. Without such awareness, a performance of "Don Carlo" is restricted to consideration of who sang what how well. With it the special kind of drama in this score is within range, at least, of realization.

Not all the links in the chain were equally strong, but the best of them were present and tautly drawn in the great scene of Act III in which Jerome Hines as King Philip II poured out his woes as a father and husband, Justino Diaz as the Grand Inquisitor drew the firm line beyond which even the power of a king could not pass, and Raina Kabaivanska as the Queen and Grace Bumbry as her rival-in-affection, Eboli, clashed in a bitter contest of wills and aspirations. This is the kind of human condition that stirred Verdi most deeply and the performance made it glow with the fervor he poured into it.

Bumbry's performance, in her debut, was a provocative part of the result, if neither as important or as special as the attention lavished on her by at least a part of the audience. In addition to a spacious voice, which accommodated itself comfortably to both extremes of the role (and to the size of the theater as well), she has the even more important gift of temperament. He Eboli is infused with individuality from the start, which is partially an outgrowth of the manner in which she conceives the character's place in the drama, but also, one suspects, something within her that she cannot very well keep out of whatever she does. She sang the "Veil Song" beautifully with a light coloration not easy for mezzos to come by, but she also had the full range of stops to make "O don fatale" an experience in musical drama rather than merely an exercise in vocal agility. Like most of her sister mezzos, she tends to bear down a little heavily on the dark "chest" tones, but her assurance, self-possession, and character projection are the kind from which a substantial career can be made.

Hardly less important to the total effect, if not so compulsive in its impact, was the appealing Elizabeth of Kabaivanska, a much-improved singer since she was last heard. By some standards this is an "ungrateful" part (no real aria until nearly the last scene) but the performer who makes it as credible a part of the drama as Kabaivanska did earns thanks for artistry. Diaz has the grand supply of sound to match the magnitude of the music Verdi wrote for the Grand Inquisitor: what one may hope for (he is still in his twenties) is the inner tension to build the part to the stature of some past performers, who did not sing the music nearly as well as he does. Hines could be put in a special class of the Inquisitor of size who can also sing it well, but he has now made such a strong study of Philip II that it is difficult to think of him exchanging roles in this scene. Now and then he inclines to take on the manner of the superhuman Wotan rather than the merely human Spanish king, but in the great soliloquy of Act III, he was completely in character.

Lest it be supposed this is the odd kind of Verdi opera without a tenor and baritone, "Don Carlo" has them, in two key roles, but they tended to be accessories after the fact on this occasion. As Don Carlo, Bruno Prevedi seemed to be obsessed with a kind of monologue, in which he looked at on one, whether the person opposite was one he loved or hated, or-as in the case of the conductor-merely tolerated. What he has to offer vocally is close enough to distinction to merit a real effort at acting, hard as it may come. Ettore Bastianini was closer to the kind of sense a Marquis of Posa should make, though the lovely rich sound of old is rather dryer, harder for him to produce than it used to be. Given a small infusion of Tucker and Merrill, this "Don Carlo" could come close to the grand ones the Metropolitan has offered in recent years, assuming (which is more than a little) that the best of this cast is retained.

Photograph of Grace Bumbry as Princess Eboli by Louis Mélançon.

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