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4.7 out of 5 stars
Don Carlo: Salzburg Festival (Pappano) [DVD] [2014]
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on 13 May 2014
The Salzburg Festival assembled a starry team for this performance of Don Carlo, and they do not disappoint. Jonas Kaufmann and Anja Harteros are currently matchless in this repertoire and both sing and act superbly. Ekaterina Semanchuk is a brilliant Eboli – combining with Sir Antonio Pappano to deliver a blistering account of “O Don Fatale”. Matti Salminen might not be quite as awesome as Ferrucio Furlanetto on the Covent Garden DVD, but is still very good indeed. Thomas Hampson is excellent as Rodrigo, although maybe not quite a match for himself 17 years ago at the Chatelet. Eric Halfvarson seems to have made the part of the Grand Inquisitor his own for quite a few years now, and here once again proves how. The smaller parts are all very well taken. All in all, I would say that this is easily the strongest cast on DVD/blu-ray.

The production is basically traditional. The costumes are magnificent and certainly evocative of the period (although I’ve read elsewhere that they’re not strictly authentic). I don’t care for the sets, which are minimal and sparse and feel like they come from a different production to the costumes. They’re also very cheap and shoddy-looking. There are obvious joins, pillars that don’t sit properly on the floor, that sort of thing. Set-builders need to understand that HD close-ups are very unforgiving of such poor workmanship.

The whole is very well directed. My only quibble is that three of the ladies-in-waiting, including the Contessa D’Aremberg, don’t leave the stage during Elisabetta’s meeting with Carlo in Act II, scene 2, which makes a bit of a nonsense of the following section, where she gets dismissed for leaving the Queen alone. This is however a small niggle when so much else goes so well. I was particularly struck with the confrontations in Acts III and IV between Eboli and Elisabetta – both electrifying.

This is the five-act version sung in Italian, but contains some music cut from the Covent Garden and Chatelet versions – mainly the opening Woodcutters’ Chorus and their scene with Elisabetta. Overall I would say that this blu-ray is a clear first choice.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
“Don Carlo” (Verdi) is the opera that no one can imagine, as each performance seems unique; it is very difficult to find a staging of the complete work. There are almost as many “Don Carlo” as there are stagings of it. There are even changes between the version of the première in Paris, in 1867, and those performed two days later. There are also the “editions” of 1872, signed in Naples, and those of 1884 (made for Vienna) and 1886 (Modena). This last one excludes the ballet. Nowadays, there is generally a distinction between the French version of 1867 and the Italian one of 1884, with libretto by Zanardini and De Lauzieres.

This major title of the Verdian production lives within a tapestry of contradictions: the plot gathers historical characters, but they are all at the service of an idea that is not interested in the real story; at the time of the première the composer was accused of being influenced by Meyerbeer and Wagner, but the score is an example of the most profound and complex Verdi, and although it demands a great show, its soul is to be found in the more intimate scenes. To all of the aforesaid, we have to add that, despite the love conflict, it is a political opera that shows a hard-hearted king (Filippo II di Spagna) who is finally willing to speak of freedom and to open up his heart to a rebel (Rodrigo de Posa), and challenging the interference of the Catholic Church in State decisions.

There still remains love, here betrayed, as well as desire: Elisabetta di Valois marries Filippo although she is in love with his son, Carlo; Filippo loves and suffers on account of a woman who he knows is in love with his son; Carlo loves his “madre” (mother), as he calls Elisabetta, and makes the love conflict he has with his father compete with the differences he has with him in terms of government; the Princess of Éboli loves Carlo and that is why she ends up by denouncing Elisabetta. The best term to describe the relationship between Carlo and Rodrigo is “bromance”; their unbeatable friendship is demonstrated with Posa’s immolation. He and Carlo wish a freedom they have never lived; they seem to love each other in that desire for freedom.

There are various aspects that allow us to say that this is a “Don Carlo” of reference. Staged in Salzburg in 2013, it is the version in five acts of the Italian translation, without the ballet but with the scene in the third act in which Isabel and Éboli exchange dresses, which is not to be found in most of the record editions. Peter Stein —theatre director who founded the Schaubühne am Lehniner Platz, a cutting-edge company of the German theatre— opts for a staging with traditional elements based on a careful work of the actors, oozing with questions about the nature of the conflicting private relationships, but which also takes a stand on the variegated political and religious conflicts addressed by the libretto. It supports their work with a functional and naked staging, with delicate allusions to the Spain of the 16th century; lights that render suggestive twilight pictures, especially for the solitude of Carlo and for his duets with Isabel and Rodrigo; a luxurious wardrobe with Diego Velázquez as reference, and a sextet of singers who know that having a voice is not enough.

From the pit, Maestro Antonio Pappano conducts with passion and manages to capture the shadows inhabiting this difficult score, achieving sonorous climaxes in the crescendo of the love duet between Carlo and Isabel in the first act, in the ambiguous passion that consumes Rodrigo, and in the huge concertante of the Auto da Fe. The Infante of tenor Jonas Kaufmann is a dispossessed and melancholy prince, a vulnerable and sickly hero rendered light and shadows through a dark and burnished voice that disturbs with its tenderness and beauty, and dazzles with its masterly use of the messa di voce. Anja Harteros sings an Elisabetta di Valois who is pure nobility in the attitude and rigor in the phrasing, features that are also to be found in Thomas Hampson (Rodrigo de Posa), whose vocal enamel is not the same of recent years, but is a sensitive and musical artist like few others. Ekaterina Semenchuk —natural successor of the Obraztsova and Borodina lineage— imposes her Éboli through a voluptuous and intense singing, while two unparalleled veterans, basses Matti Salminen (a master of declaimed singing) and Eric Halfvarson (terrifying), render the confrontation between Filippo II and the Grand Inquisitor into a lesson in theatrical tension.

Juan Antonio Muñoz H.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 25 July 2014
There's a lot of music here. Every time I here this opera, I hear a bit I've never heard before. Suffice it to say that with playing and singing like this, none of it outstays its welcome. There's nothing to object to in the staging - and nothing particularly exciting either. I've given this five stars mostly because I find Kaufmann and Harteros utterly superb. Of course they can sing the music, with wonderful phrasing and enormous subtlety of dynamics - but it's their acting that moved me. Very few opera singers survive the close up scrutiny of a film camera - and why should they have to indeed? Their final duet is heartbreaking. If you love this piece, then treat yourself. You won't regret it. Oh. The rest of the cast? All excellent - but not of the standard of Kaufmann and Harteros. They are simply in a class of their own.
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29 of 35 people found the following review helpful
Verdi wrote this five act opera with a French Libretto for the Paris opera. Premiere 1867. Then there are three versions of this opera, the French 1867 version, the revised Italian four Act Don Carlo 1884, plus the Modena version 1886. This version is the 1884 version with Act One reinstated, as well as the original beginning of Act 2. To complicate matters the French opera was simply translated into Italian, and then the changes were made. There is an even newer edition completed in 1980 by Ricordi, and others floating around as well.

However, although this Salzburg festival Don Carlos is in Italian, it is exactly the same as the French five act version. I own the DVD of the French version made in 1996 at the Theatre du Chatelet, Paris, with Alagna, Hampson, Mattila and Meier, Orchestre du Paris cond Pappano. There is no difference. I mentioned this, because some of the readers of this review, might wonder if this new Don Carlos is the four Act version. However,the Don Carlo filmed in 2008, follows the five act Modena version. This opera is sung in Italian, with Villazon, Poplavskaya, Keenlyside, Halfvarson and Lloyd. Royal opera house orchestra conducted by Pappano again. I know. I own it as well. It would have helped,if The French and new Salzburg Don Carlos mentioned which edition they used.

This version was filmed at the 2013 Salzburg festival with its large stage. This Bluray Don Carlos like the other two, have traditional staging and costumes. The scenery is minimalist. The stage is not cluttered. Act one has a light blue background, indicating snow, also orange windows to give the impression that the singers are outside. There are a pile of logs, and it snows during the act. When the camera shows the stage as seen from the back of the theater, the pale blue with the pale tones of the peasants clothes, it makes for a stunning beautiful scene. Act two. A light coloured Cobalt blue background indicating a Monastery. Off center a Statue of Charles V with Monks surrounding it. Hampson and Kaufman are wearing black costumes of the period. Scene 2. Green backdrop subtly representing trees and a pond, sheltered by a large tree. The women are dressed in black with different coloured flowers in their hair. Act 3. The Ball. A tent with lanterns of the period. Moon shining from above. Elisabeth at the opening of Act one, wears a long red coat, with green embroidery across her chest and down her pink long flowery dress. There is a green feather in her hat. The green and red are complimentary colours, as are the Blue scenery and orange windows in Act One. Knowing this makes your opera going more enjoyable. This means the opera has been well thought out.

The Vienna Philharmonic is conducted by Antonio Pappano. I need say no more. For when he is involved in the production, it will be good for he gets the tempi just right, as he is a singers conductor. The last duet with Don Carlos, Kaufmann and Elizabeth, Anja Harteros in Act five sums up the production. They both bring out the best in each other. Kaufmann seems to float his notes. Exaterina Semenchuk is the best Eboli out of the three versions of this opera. Meier was having an off night in the Paris version. Phillip the second, Matti Salminen who was Hunding in the Chereau ring, has still got his rich Bass voice. If you want to be a singer, become a Mezzo, Bass or Baritone, they go on for ever. The Grand Inquisitor is Eric Halfvarson, who is well inside his part. he should be, this is his third filmed version of the part. Thomas Hampson was in the Paris Don Carlos, and he has been able to make more of the role in this new version. Robert Lloyd is extremely good in his part as Charles V and has been around a long time. Kaufmann is the greatest tenor of his generation. What else is there to say.

So what do I make of this; the third Don Carlos I own. Actually, they are all good. Alagna was the lyrical tenor of his Generation in the Paris production. In the Royal opera house Don Carlos, I like Villazon, but up against Kaufmann there is no contest. As Phillip the second, Furlanetto is the best out of the three. However, Harteros is better in the role of Elizabeth then Mattila, Paris version, but the equal of Marina Poplavskaya, Royal opera house. But what makes me give the nod to Harteros, is her singing with Kaufmann as I have already stated. So each of the Don Carlo's have their strengths and weaknesses. But if you like Kaufmann, I would buy this new version. I hope this review helps.

REGIONS: A.B.C. It states on the back of the Bluray case, Region code 0, WORLDWIDE. Subtitles: English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Korean, Chinese. 16.9. LPCM and DTS HD Master Audio. recorded live. The picture is extremely life like and clear as bluray should be. Booklet with Synopsis.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 28 March 2015
I wanted this to be wonderful but it was not that. It was OK, Something of a curate's egg. Pappano didn't erase memories of Solti but conducted firmly and well. Sets were minimal and costumes mostly black of which my eyes tired quickly. There were some oddities in the production - Elisabetta comments on how Carlos' eyes are losing life as she stares at the back of his head; Philip asks who these people are who kneel before him before they kneel - quibbles admittedly but silly production mistakes that are easily avoided. But this opera stands or falls by the singers and here I was not altogether convinced. Salminen was a King who didnt scare me at all. He looked less than regal (rather like a cross Santa) and though he can still boom some impressive notes much else was uncertain in pitch, woolly or simply wobbly. The scene with the Grand Inquisitor was a battle of wobbles and the aria before it was free of legato and any noticable style..
Semenchek as Eboli sang well with a fine voice but spoiled the end of 'O don fatale' by needing a breath between each note.
Hampson's Posa was a complete portrait. He sang well (even attempting the three trills) and never left character for a second. Towering over Carlos physially he played it as an older brother, guiding and restraining. I did get a speck of something in my eye at his death I confess. A wonderful assumption.
Harteros' Elisabetta was convincing and well sung, even the difficult final aria went well - and that has tripped up many a vaunted soprano over the years, but her moves from one note to the next were often clumsy. But what a top. Her highest notes would have done Turandor proud.
Kaufmann's fans will not hear a word against him. I have admired him greatly in a number of roles and would probably have clapped my hands sore at his performance but...it is not a performance I will return to very often. Of course he had splendid moments when the voice rang out superbly and he acted the nervous and unpredictable Carlo with utter conviction. He fitted well enough into a non-italian cast for his voice is stubbornly non-italian. The highest notes are muscular without ever ''leaving his throat' as it were. Sometimes it sounds hollow, without a true centre and and others throaty though not constricted. Having said that he has little competion in thisrole today.
Not a Don Carlo for all seasons then but an enjoyable if imperfect night in.
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on 25 November 2014
This is a highly professional and beautiful production.
The performances of Kaufmann and Harteros are outstanding.
I thought the ending was a little strange and confused, but it did not take away from the beautiful musical and acting performances.
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on 14 October 2014
I loved Jonas Kaufmann's approach to this Opera and of course the entire cast were in great voice. I have watched it several times and though not my personal favourite Verdi opera have found something new and which strikes a cord each time.
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on 4 August 2014
Despite some criticisms at the time of the performance, this production is the best "Don Carlo" in a decade or two, at least. The duet of Jonas Kaufmann and Anja Harteros in Act V is really beautiful and incomparable.
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on 25 June 2015
Superb performance - a stand-out cast and conductor = I love this recording
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 8 June 2014
I have seen many versions of this wonderful opera, and I must say I enjoyed this version a lot! Don Carlo is so handsome and his singing is perfect as well as his acting. Elisabetta is also beautiful and wonderful singer and act very well also. Rodrigo is ok, but his voice could have been stronger, but he is very good in all. The King was not one of my favorite, his voice was not strong enough I must say. But I will recommend it warmly. The orchestra with Pappano is fantastic!
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