4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
A great operatic occasion,
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This review is from: Verdi: Don Carlos [DVD]  (DVD)
With the exception of La Traviata Don Carlos (Don Carlo), in its various forms, remains by favourite Verdi opera and a telecast of this particular production was my first introduction to the work. Performed in the original five act French version the production was staged at Theatre du Chatelet in 1996, under the baton of Antonio Pappano. There are a number of productions of the opera available on DVD and most are examples of a traditional staging but such is not the case here. The production, which boasts some very superior singing, is justly famous and remains my favourite on DVD.
Certain reviewers have disliked the staging which is certainly different. There is no particular style of set or costume design but what there is works very well and does complement the action. The staging is definitely not a Zurich style madhouse. Each scence does have an individual style of its own including the white costumes of the chorus in the forest of Fontainebleau, the black dresses of the queen and her attendants outside the gates of the monastry at Yuste, the colourful costumes of the crowds at the auto-da-fe and the stark design of Philippe's study with furnishing limited to a chair and a campbed.
The production's great triumph is the very high standard of singing by the various solo artistes and the chorus. In recent years Roberto Alagna's career has encountered certain difficulties but at this time he was regarded as the young tenor of the moment destined for a glorious career. He gives an inspired performance both as singer and actor. He is well partnered in the famous duets by Thomas Hampson here establishing his credentials as a fine emotionally charged Verdi baritone. Jose Van Dam impresses as the autocratic and troubled king. In the role of the scheming, vengeful and finally penitent Princess Eboli Waltraud Meier is most impressive in her great acte IV aria "O don fatal et deteste"
Among the singers there are two great stand-outs. Wearing a series of fabulous (but not traditional) dresses and with a hairstyle that manages to increase her already impressive height, the beautiful Karita Mattila dominates the stage everytime that she appears. Her singing and acting are always very good but she is at her best in her long aria in acte V "Toi qui sus le neant grandeurs de ce monde" The other incredible performance is given by Eric Halfvarson, who as the grand inquisitor (a hooded, crippled grotesque) is the perfect incarnation of evil masquerading as divine truth.
The singing alone makes the production an essential purchase for the Verdi aficionado but for a viewer seeking a more traditional production a very good starting point is the Met's 1980s production under the baton of James Levine with Placido Domingo at his very best in the title role.