Well, why not? We usually hear this in the "wrong" language anyway. The edition performed is what DON CARLO/S aficionados ordinarily would call "four-act Italian." Deserving of the first superlatives is Andrew Porter's English translation of the Méry/du Locle libretto. Porter's text almost invariably lies gracefully atop Verdi's musical lines, and it is hard to imagine it being more comprehensive and reliable in detail, or better matched to musical mood. I do not hesitate to say there is more skill and sensitivity evident in this translation than in the Italian one we hear 90 percent of the time -- the Italian one is ear-familiar but has little else going for it. Porter's fine text is in the hands of singers, though, and it can't always be clearly understood, especially in choral passages and when a soloist ventures high. The lower-voiced male cast members make the most of their words, the Elisabeth the least.
There are no poor performances among the all-British/American/Australian cast, and there is one outstanding one: the baritone William Dazeley's Rodrigo. The voice is of modest size by the standard of recorded Rodrigos, but the tone is lovely, and it's a thoughtful, caring performance with great feel for character. His is a name for which I will be on the lookout in the future. The Philip II, Alastair Miles, is in better voice and/or more at ease singing in his native tongue than he was in the super-complete French-language DON CARLOS of October 2004, conducted by Bertrand de Billy in Vienna. (The latter is available on CD as well as on a DVD enshrining Peter Konwitschny's extreme-Regie deconstruction/send-up of the opera, for the adventurous or the masochistic, to taste.) In both performances, however, Miles's is a small-scaled monarch in the van Dam mode, with the character's sadness, isolation, and ineffectuality registering more than the majestic, intimidating, and volatile sides well served by Ghiaurov, Siepi, et al. The other principals -- Julian Gavin's Don Carlos, Janice Watson's Elisabeth, Jane Dutton's Eboli, the veteran John Tomlinson's Grand Inquisitor -- cover some range of lesser or greater effectiveness (Gavin sometimes sounds as if artificially puffing up to approximate a larger vocal size than he owns; Watson's vocal method often sacrifices intelligibility, and some rhythmic points with it; Dutton has more of the will than the means), but there is always validity and commitment in their work.
Conductor Richard Farnes impresses as an astute student of this score. He seems to have absorbed much that has been learned and communicated by the great maestri who have taken up DON CARLO/S since the work began to be reexamined as a Verdi masterpiece in the mid-20th century. The interpretation could be called "up to the minute"; there is nary an eccentricity, and many of the solutions of tempo and balance are model ones for 2009. The Orchestra and Chorus of Opera North deserve plaudits for their response, which is long on both force and color. Some familiar problems of recording this opera remain unsolved, but DON CARLO/S collectors should be old hands at adjusting accordingly. Most of us learn very early on that, for example, a volume setting that enables one to hear the distant monks' chorus (the first words sung in this edition) will make the tenor/baritone cabaletta intolerably loud.
The edition chosen is presented absolutely uncut, so we get the whole of Thibault and the chorus's introduction to Eboli's first scene; the D-flat-major interlude in "Io vengo a domandar" (here renamed "I come before the Queen"); both verses of Elisabeth's farewell to the Countess; every note of the auto-da-fé ceremonial music; the marziale section of Carlos and Elisabeth's farewell duet -- everything is in. The only prior commercial recordings of the *four*-act edition that come to my mind as being similarly comprehensive are both on EMI, Karajan/BPO and Muti/Scala. The former, with its staggering orchestral work and top-to-bottom luxury cast (Barbara Hendricks as the Heavenly Voice, Edita Gruberova as Tebaldo, and so on), remains the first choice for a four-act DON CARLO/S, but there is much to be said for the new set. Those wanting to hear the opera in English should be pleased, and beyond that, this is what a recording of a standard-repertory item should be. It would effectively introduce the work to a newcomer, and it is a persuasive enough performance to earn its space on the shelf of the collector.