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Customer Review

85 of 90 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Finally, the Don Carlo on DVD I've been looking for, 23 Sept. 2010
This review is from: Verdi: Don Carlo - DVD Live from the Royal Opera House [2010] [NTSC] (DVD)
Don Carlo is a problematic opera. For many opera lovers, like me, it is their favourite Verdi opera, if not their favourite opera. However, there is the nagging problem of all the different versions available. Verdi's initial version for Paris was severely cut, then he revised it several times, and ever since then conductors and producers have had a choice of which version they wanted to stage. I, for one, like the 1886 version in five acts, preferably in French, but, I'll settle for Italian (like this DVD), however, once you got to know the version in French, you quickly realise that the music was written for French, and the Italian translation had to adapt to the music, and is therefore less satisfying. The definitive version on CD of this version is Claudio Abbado's recording.Verdi: Don Carlos. The music is far superior to the original version. It is stunning, overpowering and beautiful.

This DVD is the Italian version of the version Claudio Abbado recorded, and after buying several Don Carlo's on DVD, I finally found this DVD from the Royal Opera House which, I think, is the definitive version on DVD.

It must have been superb seeing it at Covent Garden, and I hope one day to see it live there. In my opinion productions from the Royal Opera can be presumed to be excellent.

The star is, rightly, Rollando Villazon in the title role. The production focuses on him. He is frequently left alone on stage in between scene changes. He seems forlorn and lost, a troubled soul, having to deal with losing the love of his life to his obsessive and power hungry father, Philip II (sung by Feruccio Furlanetto). He tries to achieve something with his life in order to forget Elisabetta, in the form of a saviour for Flanders, but his father thwarts his efforts. The production accentuates it. Villazon is a brillian Don Carlo. His acting portrays the sorrow that he faces after losing Elisabetta, and eventually his bosom friend Rodrigo, Marquis of Posa (sung by Simon Keenlyside). It is clear that he cannot forget the love of his life, and anyone that has had to cope with the loss of that one love will be able to identify with this character. Villazon's voice is beautiful, and his performance does not disappoint.

The next star is Feruccio Furlanetto, as Philip II. Philip II is a troubled soul, haunted by his failures in life, and obviously threatened by his son, Don Carlo, whose efforts at becoming a man in his own right he deliberately sabotages. In this production we can see him being haunted by his own weaknesses, by the fact that Elisabetta is not in love with him (heaven alone knows how he could have expected her to be), by his own petty cruelty, and by the Grand Inquisitor, whom he despises but needs. Feruccio Furlanetto's voice is perfect for Philip II, and he is superbly casted in this role and demonstrates the flawed character of Philip II convincingly.

Marina Poplavskaya is a beautiful Elisabetta. She has a stunning voice. In the first act she and Rolando Villazon portray a beautiful young couple in love, whose happiness is suddenly and prematurely cut short for political expedience. She sings her famous aria (Tu che le vanita) stunningly beautiful. The ensuing duet with Rolando Villazon is also stunning. Listen to the part where they sing about how Carlo plans to be a great ruler. When she cries and tells Carlo that these are the tears that women cry for heroes, it is hard not to be overcome by the emotion, which Poplavskaya clearly feels herself. She is an amazing actress, identifying with the role, wonderfully complementing Villazon's own torments as Don Carlo.

Simon Keenlyside, as Rodrigo, the only reasonable character in the entire opera, is also superb. His fourth act duet with Rolando Villazon is powerful.

I've always found Eboli to be a ridiculous, petty, vindictive and sad character. She once saw Don Carlo trembling in the presence of Elisabetta, and immediately assumed that Carlo must therefore be in love with her, Eboli. It is quite funny though, and elicited some laughs from the fortunate audience who attended this recording. Maybe Verdi deliberately wanted to lighten the mood of this sombre but stunning opera. Sonia Ganassi sings the role well, and I hope to see more of her.

Eric Halfvarson is an intimidating inquisitor. Verdi and his librettists satirise the religious aspect of the opera. Religion plays a vital role in this opera, and I think Verdi wanted to show how absurd blind adherence to a cruel dogma can be. Halfvarson, as the guardian of the faith, who does not let heresy take foot in Spain, is brilliant and intimidating in this role. The auto-da-fe scene, with the royal regalia and the immolation of the heretics, is beautiful and depressing in its cold hearted portrayal of the barbarity of the action.

The Royal Opera Orchestra and choir under Antonio Pappano are just superb.

Lastly, a word about the production. The Royal Opera has a great tradition of exploring operas in depth, highlighting emotions in innovative ways. This production cannot leave you unmoved. The sets are beautiful and colourful, the acting and the lighting superb.

This is definitely the Don Carlo on DVD that opera lovers have been waiting for.
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Showing 1-6 of 6 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 29 Dec 2010 09:03:33 GMT
M. Gannon says:
I assume you meant to say Verdi "revised" the opera rather than "reviewed" it?

In reply to an earlier post on 3 Jan 2011 12:15:57 GMT
Yes, thanks. I changed it.

Posted on 1 Mar 2012 15:04:01 GMT
Coolman says:
What a great review!! Would they were all like this.

Thank you so much

Posted on 24 Jul 2012 08:34:59 BDT
You've got me sold on this version.

In reply to an earlier post on 8 Dec 2012 13:56:53 GMT
To the original reviewer:
I have two of this opera already, including one with Alagna, but clearly I have to have this, too. Thank you for pointing out its merits.

Posted on 21 Nov 2015 23:08:35 GMT
Yes, it is a great review, but I'm afraid I prefer Alagna in the title role, having seen it streamed from the Met in the US.
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