Top positive review
A magnificent Don Carlos
on 2 July 2017
An excellent production of Verdi’s opera, with a wonderful cast. Beautiful music, exquisite singing, great acting, intensity and emotion – these are the main virtues I look for in an opera performance, and I have found them all here. In addition, the staging is not aimed at reinterpreting or modernizing the original opera – Verdi would definitely recognize it - and this is something I’m especially thankful for.
Don Carlos is a young, incurably idealistic and very vulnerable crown prince, who sincerely wants to be a hero, but who has become deeply frustrated while struggling with the issues related to a cold and tyrannical father (who turns into a powerful and dangerous rival to his son just when Carlos needs to become an emotionally and physically autonomous adult). Roberto Alagna sings impeccably and as naturally as other people breathe. He expresses the various and often conflicting emotions of the young prince in a very convincing way, and he makes it easy to understand why the other good characters love Carlos so much. Karita Mattila plays an Elisabeth who is considerably more mature than Carlos, a young woman for whom duty is everything, even though remaining dutiful and true to her principles requires more and more sacrifice on her part. If she seems too cold as a lover, it is totally in character – this queen can never be truly herself except when she is alone, and that is when Mattila’s acting becomes heartbreakingly intimate and emotional. As for the singing, she sings like an angel. Thomas Hampson as Rodrigue is brilliant both vocally and as an actor. He is very believably the hero who leaves the mark of his personality on everything he touches.
A few words about the plot: It certainly has parts that are unrealistic (and I don’t even mean the appearance of the dead king), but, frankly, I don’t expect the same level of subtlety in the case of an opera libretto as in the case of a drama. Here everything serves the music, and the music is the main means of conveying meaning. For example, it’s been said that the political aspect (freedom for Flanders) is secondary in the actual plot, which may well be true, but when Rodrigue recalls the horror of the oppression, the power of the music does full justice to the cause, in my opinion. I have no problem with the idea that Elisabeth and Carlos fall in love at first sight and that they are unable to get over this love later. It is psychologically believable that they fall in love so easily because they want to. They have both been anxious about their impending marriage (they both know that they don’t have a choice), so when they find out that the other one is, in fact, a likeable person, they feel such relief that they fall in love at once. After that, the sudden obstacle that they face serves only to make this relationship more valuable in their eyes, strengthening their love. Also, the fact that even the good characters just stand by and watch as the heretics are burnt is a realistic touch, which underlines the power of the Inquisition. Everyone who lives in this climate knows that they can’t be saved now. All in all, the plot of this opera is as good as most of the others.
In short, I wholeheartedly recommend this DVD to everyone who enjoys Verdi’s music and who can appreciate a traditional opera production whose main value is in the performance of the singers and the musicians.