[Met Performance] CID:272060
Don Carlo {130} Matinee ed. Metropolitan Opera House: 03/26/1983., Broadcast / Telecast

(Broadcast / Telecast

Metropolitan Opera House
March 26, 1983 Matinee, Broadcast / Telecast
In Italian

Giuseppe Verdi--François Joseph Méry/Camille du Locle

Don Carlo...............Plácido Domingo
Elizabeth of Valois.....Mirella Freni
Rodrigo.................Louis Quilico
Princess Eboli..........Grace Bumbry
Philip II...............Nicolai Ghiaurov
Grand Inquisitor........Ferruccio Furlanetto
Celestial Voice.........Marvis Martin
Friar...................Julien Robbins
Tebaldo.................Betsy Norden
Forester................Peter Sliker
Count of Lerma..........John Gilmore
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
TV Director.............Brian Large

Telecast: Live From The Met
Rebroadcast on Sirius Metropolitan Opera Radio

[This performance was broadcast telecast live to Europe. It was Televised later in the United States.]

Review of Jon Randall in California Voice

Hold That Ghost Don Carlo!

It's always been strange to me that people don't put "Don Carlo" on the same level of excellence with "Aida" and "Traviata." After seeing the "Live From The Met" production on P.B.S. from last March, I'd be willing to say it's the greatest of all Verdi's works in nobility of inspiration.

The stock plot convolutions don't seem to detract from the power of the endless dramatic confrontations in this opera. Every scene seemed to strike fire in Verdi's heart; these were humanistic matters that profoundly touched him. His response was to create a Mediterranean alternative to Wagnerian-style bombast, Heroically martial without oppressive heaviness, and cohesive through an understated use of leitmotif, this is no mere glorified popular entertainment but high art. Surely the Auto de Fe scene is as majestic as anything in Wagner, and you don't have to wait two hours to get to it.

Only once or twice does Verdi turn on the snow machine (like Dickens in his novels whenever it's time for an Angelic orphan to die) - Rodrigo' s death with flutes, trilling hearts and flowers is an example. This score is as refined as it is strong, ranging from brilliantly colorful gaiety in the "Veil Song" to the palsied, slimy menace of the Inquisitor's music!

It is one of the supreme tests of a great opera house to produce for both reasons of length (it's Verdi's longest at around four hours) and the depth of casting it requires. All the major characters are given great dramatic opportunities to shine, and each has at least one show-stopping aria.

You can't do much better than Placido D. in the lead role. Although hindered by what was an undoubtedly authentic, but awkward, very wide costume - a black velvet box draped with button candy - Placido once again delivered the goods both vocally and dramatically. Though sometimes you feel he could let go just a little more on the high notes - milk them just that deliciously vulgar extra few seconds to leave you flat on your back on the floor, but with his incredible schedule its better that he protects his voice. Damn, his artistry grows ever subtler in rendering complex (sometimes exotic) emotions clearly, emotions which convince utterly by their obvious sincerity, and can thus draw us in to the hyper intense Romantic sensibility, Which sensibility is the oxygen in the lungs of Grand Opera.

Louis Quilico, who almost stole the show in Samson and Delilah recently, was a musical and sympathetic Rodrigo, Carlos' friend (Paul Hardman should check out this libretto for some very extreme expressions of mutual male devotion. It's obvious Carlo's attraction to Elisabetta is some kind of sidetrack, a weird Oedipal number.) His voice was quite wooly and wobbly at first, but firmed up considerably by the affecting end. His costume being also extremely wide, he and Placido exceedingly resembled Tweedledum and Tweedledee in their celebrated "friendship" duet.

Mirella Freni was very creamy as Elisabetta. Though she always looks Sophia Lorenesque she has a tendance to go on automatic pilot if she's not concentrating. Sometimes she's bland (though always competent and accurate) and sometimes she's really thrilling. It's not temperament exactly - it might be she just gets lazy or jaded or bored. Since she was singing with her lover, Nicolai Ghiaurov, in a dramatically conflicting role, one expected more passion - but never try to second guess the Byzantine complexities of opera casting.

In the plum role of Eboli, Grace Bumbry glided sensually, pleasantly through the music, though she hacked at the "Veil Song" fioratura like a proverbial buzzsaw. As in "Traviata," it's almost impossible to find a dramatic mezzo who can handle the glittering flexibility required in act one and the sheer voltage essential for "O Don Fatale." Like Freni, she seems to have a certain residue of inertia in her. Nicolai Ghiaurov struck me much the same as he did in his recent Boris G. here - still warm-toned, but kind of cooled out, which in this role worked well, as it made Phillip seem more human.

James Levine did a good job of holding the vast musical expanses of the opera together, thought I think he's better at spectacular, grandiose public moments than intensely emotional private ones. Sets were hard to judge because of the natural tendency of video to favor the close-up. Costumes were "tres" riches, though it seemed not well conceived in their coloristic harmony with each other - some designers have a real genius for stunning painterly effects.

What an educational experience to be able to watch one's favorite Verdi opera three times in one week! But I would still appreciate it if someone would once and for all explain exactly what the hell is happening at the end, Does Carlo escape in the confusion? Is it really his grandfather who's just pretended to be dead? Is it a friendly monk pretending to be a ghost? A friendly ghost pretending to be..?

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