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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars marvellous, 22 Sept. 2007
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This review is from: Verdi: Don Carlos (Audio CD)
As only one of three French-language recordings of this I am aware of, there isn't really a lot of competition. Don Carlos was written in French by Verdi, and as such this is the original document, not the Italian translation, with the vocal line compromised to fit in extra syllables here, or taken a few out there. Abbado's cast is a rock-solid group of Verdi veterans, from Domingo in the title role to Nicolai Ghiaurov in the small role of the Inquisitor. Domingo is in as fine a voice here as he was on the Italian set under Giulini, and he is joined by Katia Ricciarelli as Elisabeth showing that she is capable of more than just wilting-violet stuff we normally get from the role. The fire and vehemence from the concluding section of the Act II duet, and the "Justice, Sire!" quartet in particular.

Leo Nucci as Rodrigue is pleasant but a bit light-voiced. Someone stronger like Cappuccilli would have been more preferable, but then the French like their baritones light anyway (Escamillo, for example) so I suppose the voice suits the role. His death aria is a bit limp though, in my view, sung with only a hint of emotion. Lucia Valentini Terrani as Eboli is wonderful, bringing a lot of power and also pathos to the role. Her veil song "Au palais des fees" is stunning, and she copes expertly with the highpoint "O don fatal et detestee".

But the basses! Ruggero Raimondi and Nicolai Ghiaurov utterly steal the show with their scene at the beginning of Act Four. The unabashed and awe-inspiring power generated from these two is superb! You can see that by having the lighter Raimondi as Philippe and Ghiaurov's rock-solid profundo as the Inquisiteur you get a more hair-raising experience than when Karajan conducted the four-act Italian version with the roles reversed. Raimondi brings a nobility to the King's role, which Ghiaurov smacks down to have him begging for peace to return between them. Stirring stuff!

I didn't really have a problem with the Fritalian - Domingo usually sounds plausible anyway, and Ghiaurov is also very good. Ricciarelli and Nucci pose the biggest embarassment in my view, and even then it's hardly something that gets in the way. Their diction is often muddled so you can't make out what they're saying even with the libretto in front of you. I tend to just ignore it and listen to them as instruments.

As a previous review said, the recording also includes a set of appendices. This is what made the set, at £55, value for money for me. Spread across four discs means a better listening experience altogether, not having to split up act three for example, and leaving a generous amount of time left after the final act to include some of the original music. By original, of course, I mean the music Verdi intended to use before the rehearsals began and he realised what a monster he'd created! We have the extended opening to act one, a wood-cutters' chorus with Elisabeth making an appearance and including the hunters offstage; the ballet and it's preceeding scene showing Elisabeth and Eboli exchanging clothes, which helps to explain some of the later confusion in act three (i); a section of the duet for Elisabeth and Eboli in act four, just before Eboli's aria; and the original finales to acts four and five. Hearing this music makes you sad that the opera doesn't include it in the now-standard Modena (1886) version. Such a grand opening, such a dramatic act four finale, and the trial for Carlos in the act five finale is really gripping stuff. I believe Abbado actually gave a performance in the 70s of a hotch-potch version with some of this music restored, which sounds a magnificent idea and I would be intrigued to see more productions attempt this!

A final note about the recording, it comes with an excellently-written booklet from Andrew Porter, longtime Verdi scholar and the man who discovered some of the appendices included on the recording. Well worth the money, as it'll give you quite literally hours of entertainment.
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 21 Jul 2013 02:01:16 BDT
A very enlightening review, i must say, but i completely disagree with the diction matter.... in singer's hands, or, rather, in their throats, language becomes the supreme instrument of them all... when diction is execrable, then, quite simply, there's no music making
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