[Met Performance] CID:256410
New production
Don Carlo {97} Metropolitan Opera House: 02/5/1979.

(Debuts: Robert Manno, Dana Talley

Metropolitan Opera House
February 5, 1979
Benefit sponsored by the Metropolitan Opera Guild
for the production funds
In Italian (Translation: Achille de Lauzières, Angelo Zanardini)
New production

Giuseppe Verdi--François Joseph Méry/Camille du Locle

Don Carlo...............Giuseppe Giacomini
Elizabeth of Valois.....Renata Scotto
Rodrigo.................Sherrill Milnes
Princess Eboli..........Marilyn Horne
Philip II...............Nicolai Ghiaurov
Grand Inquisitor........James Morris
Celestial Voice.........Leona Mitchell
Friar...................John Cheek
Tebaldo.................Betsy Norden
Forester................Robert Manno [Debut]
Count of Lerma..........Dana Talley [Debut]
Countess of Aremberg....Barbara Greene
Herald..................Charles Anthony

Conductor...............James Levine

Production..............John Dexter
Set designer............David Reppa
Costume designer........Ray Diffen
Lighting designer.......Gil Wechsler

Don Carlo received seventeen performances this season.

Production a gift of Mrs. Donald D. Harrington

[The original Act I, the woods at Fontainebleau, not performed by the company since 3/12/1921, was reinstated with this production. La Pérégrina, the classic ballet intended for Act III, Scene 1, a grotto in the queen's garden, however, was not included.]

Review of Robert Jacobson in Opera News

It had been twenty-nine years since the Met unveiled a new production of Verdi's "Don Carlo," a time span in which most of the major theaters had come to produce it, and in which new discoveries had been made concerning existing musical editions. On February 5 the curtain rose for the first time locally on the complete Fontainebleau scene, providing a fascinating if musically overrated prelude to "Don Carlo" as we know it, with several cuts restored. With a 7:15 curtain and close-to-midnight finale, it made a long, but often rewarding, evening. Still, lacking real stature and dramatic thrust, it was not the "Don Carlo" one hoped the house could have summoned forth with all its resources. The stars were definitely the stunning, lavish costumes by Ray Diffen and the musical version discussed in the February 24 Opera News.

What this new investiture suffered from was a degree of miscasting, hodge-podge set designs by David Reppa with no consistent point of view, and lax direction by John Dexter, who managed to miss almost every dramatic point in the music and libretto - at once full of grandeur and terror - while seemingly unable to instill dimensional characterizations into his cast, who remained conventional, stock types. This is a work that has the ability to thrill, excite, terrify, move and stun the observer, yet in Dexter's hands it emerged in bloodless fashion, an example of the modern sensibility, with everything played safe, nothing risked, the director seemingly trying to avoid what really lies inside the drama and the words. Possibly fearing the obvious theatrically, he missed such crucial points as the powerful entrance of Elisabetta and Philip into St. Just, the intimate passion of the Elisabetta-Carlo duet in Scene 3, the shadowy misunderstanding of Eboli and Carlo in the garden, the fearsome spectacle of the auto-da-fe, the magnificent confrontation of Philip with the Grand Inquisitor, the murder of Rodrigo in prison and the denouement of Carlo. All these lacked a sharp sense of destiny, tragedy and gripping passion. Reppa's varied, derivative sets generally pushed the action to the stage front, so the director could work only from wing to wing, with little depth. Reppa covered the gamut of inconsistency, from a realistic Fontainebleau forest in the snow (a la Russe] to a handsome grille for St. Just, Swedish-modern plywood walls for the garden and a claustrophobic plaza for the auto-da-fe (resembling a 1930s fascist rally) to an almost expressionistic study for Philip, with a full-wall El Greco a century ahead of its time.

James Levine is, of course, one of our leading Verdi conductors, but one felt he still had a good distance to go in encompassing all the facets of this magnificent score. His tempos tended to be on the fast side, particularly in the auto-da-fe, but one can sense he will settle down and mature, finding more grandeur, breadth, spaciousness and humanity beyond this technical panache. In the title role, Giuseppe Giacomini began nervously with a good deal of off-pitch singing, later coming into focus, but tending to bleat the high notes with his strongly produced, unsubtle tenor; as this complex, passive character, he was monochrome.

Sherrill Milnes dominated the stage with his vibrantly sung Rodrigo, producing some of his most distinguished singing to date, acting with simplicity and dignity. Nicolai Ghiaurov, returning after seven years, brought to Philip II his presence and a bass voice that now seems in severe decline. His tone often filled the theater but also seemed hollow, struggling valiantly to weather uneven moments. James Morris appeared miscast as the youthful-sounding Grand Inquisitor, especially as pitted against Ghiaurov, for he lacked real low tones and acted indifferently.

As Elisabetta, Renata Scotto convinced one more through artistry than by vocal means, looking magnificent in her series of costumes. She brings rare authority to whatever she touches and wrought sympathy as the young queen, dwarfed by the crushing events around her. But she is not a true Verdi soprano, lacking sheer amplitude and breadth for long, expanded phrases; she fared best in intimate moments, failing to provide the cathartic sensations of her sweeping final-act aria and duet.

Marilyn Horne's Eboli opened a whole can of worms, for she chose a different set of Verdi cadenzas for her veil song (avoiding the tricky octave leaps) and took "O don fatale" down a minor third, claiming it was in this key that Verdi conceived the scene, raising it for the first Eboli, Mme. Gueymard. Even with this, it cannot be said Miss Horne emerged triumphant in the role, for she is unable to carry vocal weight up to the top. While the veil song was stylishly sung, it avoided the intended Moorish quality, and her garden trio and big aria missed the cannon impact others have lent it. Leona Mitchell sounded appropriately honey-toned in the auto-da-fé as the Celestial Voice.

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