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CD Review

Giuseppe Verdi

Dynamic Blu-ray 57776

Don Carlo

  • José Bros - Don Carlo, son of the King
  • Michele Pertusi - Philip II, the King of Spain
  • Serena Farnocchia - Elisabeth de Valois
  • Vladimir Stoyanov - Rodrigo, Marquis of Posa
  • Marianne Cornetti - Princess Eboli
  • Ievgen Orlov - The Great Inquisitor
  • Simon Lim - A monk
  • Lavinia Bini - Tebaldo, page to Elisabeth
  • Gregory Bonfatti - The Count of Lerma/Royal Herald
  • Marina Bucciarelli - A voice from Heaven
Chorus of the Teatro Regio di Parma & Filarmonica Arturo Toscanini/Daniel Oren
Chorus master - Martino Faggiani
Director - Cesare Lievi
Set and Costume Design - Maurizio Balò
Light Designer - Andrea Borelli
Video Director - Tiziano Mancini
Recorded Live at Teatro Regio di Parma - October, 2016
Dynamic Blu-ray 57776 3:02:33 PCM Stereo DTS-HD Master Audio
Find it at AmazonFind it at Amazon UKFind it at Amazon GermanyFind it at Amazon CanadaFind it at Amazon FranceFind it at Amazon Japan
Also available on 2DVDs 37776: Amazon - UK - Germany - Canada - France - Japan

As Verdi mavens are aware, Don Carlo is one of the composer's deeper and darker operas. It's one of those works that can yield a wealth of profundities, some that you may not have noticed in previous performances or recordings. Indeed, but actually the opera was quite problematic for Verdi: written for the Paris Opera, Don Carlos, as it was called in the original French version, was premiered in 1867, but in an Italian language version, and though it had success then and in subsequent performances Verdi realized the work needed to be heavily revised. He worked on revisions in 1882-83, making a number of changes and reducing the opera from five acts to four, cutting about an hour from its four-hour duration. The revised version is widely regarded as the stronger of the two and that's the one presented here.

Stage director Cesare Lievi presents a fairly straightforward rendition of the opera – straightforward but not bland! Traditionalists should find this production much to their liking, not least because Lievi mostly does not try to impose his own individual views on the opera. Instead he allows the many complexities and confusing aspects of the story and characters for you to interpret. In other words, he presents Verdi's masterful but arguably flawed opera to stand on its own and in an atmosphere very appropriate to the work's dark character. Thus, the sets are sparse and consist mainly of huge white marble walls, or of columns of foliage or of stormy skies, which are seen when the marble walls open. Lighting is somewhat faint, yielding an ominous, dark cast to the action and sets. Costuming, which heavily favors black garments, is quite appropriate to the period, as well as to the story. Overall, the production values are higher here than in most other Verdi performances I have encountered recently.

As for the cast, most of its members are strong assets. The bass singers are quite effective, if not ideal. Michelle Pertusi is very good in the role of King Filippo: try his splendid Third Act opener Ella giammai m'amè. (I'll make further comments about him later.) Ievgen Orlov as the Grand Inquisitor is also quite fine, if a little offbeat, especially in the way he totters about the stage in an almost comical manner: is this one instance where Lievi injects a personal view, namely that the Grand Inquisitor is nothing imposing at all, but just a clown in robes? Anyway, Orlov delivers a convincing and in many ways profound Nell'ispano suol, also from Act III. Both the female leads turn in fine work as well. Mezzo Marianne Cornetti as Princess Eboli sings a very subtle and elegant Veil Song (Nel giardin dell bello) from the First Act. And Serena Farnocchia as Elizabeth is consistently strong throughout: to sample just one highlight from her performance try her Act IV opener, Tu che le vanità. Jose Bros is strong in the role of Don Carlo, as is Vladimir Stoyanov as Rodrigo. Try their truly impassioned Act II duet Dio, che nell'alma infondere, which quite dramatically closes out Part I of Act I. Staying with Stoyanov for the moment, he is, along with the aforementioned Michelle Pertusi, both vocally and dramatically very compelling in the final numbers from Act I (#11 & 12), Restate! and O signor, di Fiandra arrive. While I could mention more highlights from the performance, perhaps focusing a little more on Bros' impressive effort, let me just say the singing is quite fine and consistent down through the cast, if not absolutely outstanding.

Strong as the singing is, however, I think conductor Daniel Oren may be the real star here. He elucidates so much in the orchestral score, draws out spirited and committed playing from the orchestra and chorus, and shapes the score with utter intelligence and sensitivity to Verdi's idiom. He is certainly one of the finest Verdi and Puccini conductors before the public today. Those two composers dominate his discography and it's easy to see why.

The camera work, picture clarity and sound reproduction on this Blu-ray disc are first rate. I reviewed another Don Carlo here in 2005 (Opus Arte DVD OA0933D). I recall that was quite a fine effort as well, but I would now prefer this new Don Carlo from Dynamic as my first choice in the video realm. Highly recommended.

Copyright © 2017, Robert Cummings

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