As everyone knows, final 12 months the Metropolitan Opera lastly offered Don Carlos by Giuseppe Verdi within the authentic 5 act French “Paris” model.
The Metropolitan Opera first offered Don Carlo over 100 years in the past within the 1920-1921 season in a 5 act model in Italian with an abbreviated Act I Fontainebleau scene however egregious cuts elsewhere (Act III, Scene 1 grotto scene and the whole Act IV Filippo/Grand Inquisitor confrontation!) Even Ponselle, Martinelli, De Luca, Matzenauer and Didur failed to determine it as a repertory staple.
Rudolf Bing’s November 1950 opening evening (which was the premiere of the Margaret Webster manufacturing and the primary efficiency of Bing’s new administration), offered Don Carlos as Don Carlo within the four-act 1882 “Milan Model” minus the Fontainebleau Paris Act I. It performed for one more 22 years.
Later, the 5 act 1886 “Modena Model” was launched in 1979 appending the unique Act I “Fontainebleau” scene (translated into Italian) to the 1882 four-act revision. This performing textual content was launched with the John Dexter/David Reppa manufacturing and included a bit lower from Act I earlier than the Paris premiere in 1867—a woodcutters’ refrain and a scene the place Elisabeth provides alms to the ravenous peasants.
I all the time felt this part is essential because it presents the background points that necessitate Elisabeth’s political marriage and offers the prima donna a grander entrance establishing her sense of responsibility and altruism. This opening has since been lower within the two succeeding new Met productions in Italian and French.
Final 12 months’s new manufacturing carried out (and presumably organized by) music director Yannick Nézet-Séguin used a curious conflation of the unique 1867 Paris model expanded with materials that was lower earlier than the Paris premiere and Verdi’s 1882 revisions (which had been composed to a revised French textual content). One factor that was not carried over into the Met’s French version was the Act III “La Pérégrina” ballet but additionally the exchanging of the veils and Eboli’s brief aria “Pour une nuit me voilà reine”.
This was carried out on the 1867 authentic manufacturing and establishes why Carlos errors Eboli for the Queen because the princess is wearing her masks and cloak. I miss it and really feel it ought to be restored even when the ballet is omitted for dramatic credibility functions.
The place the 2022 new manufacturing (carried out by Nézet-Séguin and directed by David McVicar) targeted their idiosyncratic version of the unique Paris was in increasing the scenes between Don Carlos and the Marquis of Posa. This included an extended introduction main into the duet “Dieu, tu semas dans nos âmes”, brief additions in Act III and the initially lower choral mourning over the murdered Posa “Qui me rendra ce mort ?”. This ensemble consists of magnificent music that Verdi later reused within the “Lacrimosa” of the Manzoni Requiem.
McVicar and Nézet-Séguin, each out homosexual males, could have used the expanded music set up a gay romantic attachment between the Infante and the Marquis. This got here to a literal climax and consummation on the finish of Act V, the place the fatally wounded Carlos sees a imaginative and prescient of the lifeless Posa approaching him from upstage in a halo of sunshine. The 2 males embrace after which lie down collectively on the ground for some posthumous canoodling. For these curious Posa (Étienne Dupuis in black leather-based and mohawk) was on high…
Evidently and fortunately this blasphemous show proper there on the monastery flooring by the tomb of Charles V was invisible to Carlos’ father Philippe II and his stepmother and putative real love Elisabeth de Valois. (From what’s rumored about Catholic monasteries, maybe this was enterprise as typical—however in personal and among the many dwelling.)
Anyway, this revival which opened on November 3 restored the translated Italian textual content and the lower 1882 4 act revision not seen on the Met since Bing’s final season in 1972. I believe one cause for this reversion was that the French language and a number of the eccentricities of McVicar’s authentic manufacturing (the homoerotic component) would trigger issues casting bizarre repertory revivals.
Additionally in April 2021, the Russian famous person diva Anna Netrebko had added the position of Elisabetta di Valois, within the Italian 4 act model, on the Bolshoi Theater. The occasion marked Netrebko’s position debut but additionally become a COVID-19 superspreader occasion. The diva was hospitalized in Moscow when she got here down with the virus.
As we all know, Netrebko was to deliver her Elisabetta to the Met on this revival which included a de rigeur HD transmission. First Netrebko was cancelled and fired by Peter Gelb for her refusal to denounce Putin after his invasion of the Ukraine, then the HD was cancelled as nicely changed with Falstaff on the schedule.
Anita Rachvelishvili who was to have made her Met position debut as Eboli, additionally was sidelined final 12 months with COVID-19 an infection, apparently with lingering signs. The Georgian mezzo additionally struggled with a tough being pregnant and the pressures of latest motherhood. These private and well being points have impacted her vocal property and he or she was obliged to relinquish the taxing position to Mariinsky mezzo Yulia Matochkina.
How do I really feel concerning the four-act Milan revision? Nicely, it’s a respectable performing model organized and sanctioned by the composer and meant as his closing phrase on Don Carlo/Don Carlos. Most of his revisions enhance the opera musically giving it larger concision, cohesion and “sinew” to make use of his phrases.
Nevertheless, the “Fontainebleau” love theme is quoted within the opera within the Act II duet with Elisabetta and Carlo and in “Tu che la vanità” in Act IV. If we’ve not heard this theme earlier than, we can not join it to Carlo and Elisabetta’s misplaced love which is now solely narrated as backstory and never enacted.
Additionally, Elisabetta (and Carlos) acquire new dimensions of tenderness and remorse afterward if we’re launched to them and really see them as harmless younger lovers ultimately shattered by energy and responsibility. As for making a shorter night, the present began at 7:30 pm and the ultimate curtain got here down near 11:30 pm—nonetheless a Wagnerian taking part in time.
As typical my musicological dissertation is delaying my evaluation of this specific efficiency. I actually discovered it a blended bag—I had reservations about each efficiency and the manufacturing has modified however hasn’t improved since final 12 months. I think that every one the singers will enhance over the course of the run as they settle in.
Because the titular antihero, Russell Thomas’ Don Carlo has a sturdy, darkly burnished tenor that was largely safe. However the tone is roofed, with an absence of contrasting brilliant head tones that robbed the position of youth and innocence and his music of sunshine and shade. Additionally, thrilling heroic climaxes sounded sturdy slightly than trumpet-like.
Thomas tried however didn’t actually reach modulating his grainy strong sound right into a piano or pianissimo dynamic. He’s a slightly restricted actor was nicely. A few of these adjustments in timbre could also be resulting from including the title position of Otello to his repertoire. The mix of Otello and Don Carlo shouldn’t be extraordinary—Francesco Tamagno launched the position to Milan in 1882 and 5 years later created Otello at La Scala.
Eleanora Buratto, one in all two replacements for Netrebko, made her position debut on Thursday evening as Elisabetta di Valois. The voice is inherently heat and delightful and Italianate, the diction native and her musicality typically acute. Nevertheless, that is yet one more occasion of Elisabetta being forged with a Mimi voice which is a traditionally current development gaining traction with Von Karajan casting Mirella Freni within the position at Salzburg within the late seventies.
Buratto has some similarities with Freni in tone and character and is able to singing heavier lyric and lighter spinto rep. However as I discovered Freni typically stretched and blanched of tone within the 1983 Met telecast, Buratto gave the impression to be working very laborious and too typically out of her consolation zone.
This model of the opera does a specific disservice to Elisabetta by bringing her onstage in her tortured duet with Don Carlo in Act 1 (Act 2 within the Paris model) with out correctly introducing her character vocally or revealing her interior life. I discovered Buratto declaiming the textual content in a veristic method and having to interrupt up the vocal line into smaller models to save lots of breath and preserve vocal capital.
Her melancholy aria “Non pianger, mia compagna” was marred by messy and pitchy assaults on the uncovered and difficult ascending climactic piano phrases (the late Monserrat Caballé was peerless there). She improved in Act IV’s confrontation with Filippo and the ensemble after she is struck by her husband demonstrating command over these difficult excessive floated passages.
“Tu che la vanità” was additionally a blended bag with heat tone and incisive phrasing with an overarching sense of how the lengthy episodic sections grasp collectively. However the large broad climaxes taxed her breath management and one may sense the voice was stretched to its restrict.
Buratto can also be a forthright character—direct, earthy and spirited. Whereas this was good for Butterfly, Elisabetta wants extra internalized sorrow and emotional repression. This was laborious to detect in her stage method which appeared powerful and confrontational slightly than resigned. I believe that over a run of performances, Buratto will be taught to tempo herself higher with higher vocal management. Extra course actually would focus her interpretation. A variety of the items are there however they haven’t been absolutely assembled.
Günther Groissböck was purported to have debuted as Philippe II on this manufacturing when it premiered final 12 months. He canceled and was disastrously changed by Eric Owens, a weak-voiced cipher on this essential position. Groissböck lastly confirmed up and was naturally an enormous enchancment however nonetheless removed from definitive. The voice is grainy and brief on the underside, the timbre pretty mild.
Feedback had been made about his facet mouth singing when a poster shared teaser video the Met launched. It’s completely right that when his mouth shouldn’t be twisted to the facet, the tone is rounder, extra sonorous and has larger presence in the home. Each his method and his timbre lack the Aristocracy and gravitas—he appeared a bitter, abusive rich businessman, not a tortured tyrant of a king.
Veteran bass-baritone John Relyea returned because the Grand Inquisitor and located the change of language amenable. He projected a darkish, penetrative tone with excessive vocal vitality. Relyea alone among the many forged had a bigger than life voice with actual heroic affect. Each basses had been brief on the underside of their ranges. Nevertheless, their confrontation in Act IV was one of many highlights of the night the place the human drama got here alive. Relyea was additionally rapturously acquired by the viewers on the closing bows.
Matochkina as Princess Eboli has a satisfying timbre and clean vocal emission with no harsh edges, no wobble or obvious metal within the tone typical of Russian singers. She sings on pitch. The “Veil Track” was delivered easily however not excitingly—she lacks vocal affect on both excessive of her vary. “O don fatale!” was delivered with extra vocal largesse however Matochkina solely glanced on the excessive C-flat and climactic notes had been rigorously portioned out. It was nicely sung, extremely skilled and a little bit uninteresting. I’ve been spoiled by the likes of Dolora Zajick.
Probably the most putting and dramatically insightful performer, if a bit vocally unorthodox, was the constantly very good Peter Mattei as Rodrigo, the Marquis of Posa. Now this isn’t strictly a Verdi baritone in colour and weight. His brilliant mellow tone is slightly straight and his sound is cool and linear the place a traditional Verdi dramatic baritone could be expansive, wealthy and broad. (Although Mattei is a extra direct and fewer mannered singer, I used to be reminded of Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau’s recorded Verdi within the 1960’s).
However, Posa’s stunning music introduced out Mattei’s command of legato and expressive shaping of vocal line. He coloured the textual content sensitively and his top and aura of thriller enhanced his characterization. There was a way of a person other than different males but additionally a deeply engaged humanitarian. The doomed idealism of the ill-fated political revolutionary got here throughout clearer than I’ve ever seen it.
All the lads suffered from an absence of Italianate timbre and Verdian vocal thrust and expansive phrasing. Nevertheless, essentially the most highly effective dramatic scenes within the night had been the fateful interview duets between Filippo and Posa in Act II and Filippo and the Grand Inquisitor in Act IV. The duo scenes between Filippo and Carlo had been additionally shifting with Peter Mattei all the time bringing out the most effective in his scene companions. No particular relationship was detected of their scenes besides brotherly friendship and solidarity.
In smaller roles, debutant Alexandros Stavrakakis was a sonorous true bass Monk (one wonders if he’s masking Filippo and the Inquisitor) and Erika Baikoff a brilliant Tebaldo.
Ubiquitous this season on the conducting podium, Carlo Rizzi led a slightly gradual, expansive studying with out the delicate particulars and dramatic factors that Nézet-Séguin delivered to this epic final winter. Broad lyricism and epic sale had been the hallmarks of his studying. The orchestra performed nicely for him as they’ve all season.
I’m wondering if McVicar returned to restage the opera and if he did how lengthy he labored with the forged. Characterizations had been normal or “come as you’re.” Blocking prompt a drained manufacturing on the finish of the run. The prancing obscene jester (a brand new and egregious performer) was stealing focus always with cartwheels and humping one of many doomed heretics from behind through the Act II auto-da-fé. The manufacturing stays visually dreary with Charles Edwards’ black on black with occasional highlights of dismal grey unit set.
The ultimate scene was completely totally different. Carlo nonetheless dueled with Filippo’s guards and was fatally wounded. Posa didn’t arrive in ghostly guise. It was the Monk who appeared within the halo of sunshine wearing royal robes as Carlo V. It was a all of the sudden contrite and grief-stricken Filippo who cradled the fallen Carlo in his arms in a second paying homage to the dying Siegmund in Die Walküre (or the “Luke Skywalker I’m Your Father” scene in The Empire Strikes Again). It made for a shifting finale.
I think that the singers will enhance because the run progresses. Angela Meade takes over as Elisabetta on November 23. Her voice could have extra of the spinto grandeur required that Buratto hasn’t but mastered.