Learn more Shop now Learn more Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop now Learn More Shop now Learn more Click Here Shop Kindle George Michael - MTV Replugged Shop now Shop Women's Shop Men's

Customer reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars
4.0 out of 5 stars
Verdi: Don Carlos [DVD] [2001]
Format: DVD|Change
Price:£14.29+ Free shipping with Amazon Prime

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.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 15 April 2014
This updated Blu Ray picture wise is no better than the original DVD release, but sound opened out much better.
0Comment| 2 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 22 January 2017
As I have listened to the whole opera with headphones, I would like to make a comment about the sound issue on the Blu-Ray. It is mono, but from about 8 minutes in the 4th act and forward to the end, the sound actually is true stereo. I’m happy to notice this, because it’s about there the thrilling part of the opera begins!
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
TOP 50 REVIEWERon 7 June 2016
This Luc Bondy production deserves 5 stars for the outstanding singing and highly effective, beautifully lit sets. It is also very well acted - fantastically so; but what a strange hybrid work it is. This is a five act French version that lasts three and a half hours, during which time a pitch of emotion is maintained, never less than at full power. The singing from all five principals makes it a cast made in heaven: in the first act, Karita Mattila (Elizabeth) meets Roberto Alagna (Don Carlos) who pretends to be his own footman, as a marriage has been arranged between them, but they have never met. He then reveals the joke, and they both fall in love instantly, ludicrously, so that the news that a peace has been concluded between their countries on the back of an agreement that she should marry his father Philip II instead causes them the utmost distress. In Act 2 this marriage has taken place, so she is his stepmother. When they meet, he seems to collapse with the emotion and she is afraid he may be dying - in fact it looks as if he has died. A princess called Eboli, whose actual relation to the King is not given, is also secretly in love with Carlos. A scene of mistaken identity, where she thinks he loves her, for some reason, when he has arranged to meet Elizabeth for a secret tryst, results in the most unbridled passion being expressed, and she is almost stabbed by Carlos's faithful friend, Rodrigue, whose expressions of friendship are so reciprocally intense that it looks as if they are in love too. It's not just what they say, but the intensely physical staging. The new Queen Elizabeth has to say goodbye to a lady-in-waiting, prompting outpourings of grief from the latter while Mattila sings her heart out, trying to console her as best she can. The King may be a crusty old demagogue but he too has plenty of feelings, especially of the wounded honour kind.

One has to be prepared to go along with all the melodrama, because every time someone utters anything it is always intensely wilful, but this is the donnée in Verdi, even more than other Romantic operas. But when he forces us to see a staging of an auto-da-fe, complete with a burning at the stake of heretics, it really is too much to stomach - why this awful crowd-pleasing, this crudeness? Furthermore Elizabeth and Carlos both attend and see these poor souls going up in flames.

However there is a way of redeeming the opera from total senselessness - the idea that we should be feeling for characters' feelings of love who can stand by while something like this is happening. Rodrigue seems to disappear before the event, and Eboli is not present. It seems justifiable to see these two as the most sympathetic characters, not the central lovers. The ardour of the latter is fairly universal, after all - anyone can feel romantic passion. But to admit the full extent of your guilt, as Eboli does, to remain steadfast and sacrifice yourself out of love for a friend - these things are higher. In the light of this, the fantastic performances by Waltraud Meier and Thomas Hampson in these roles are like rare jewels, glinting in the impossibly dark, preposterous drama. The subtext is about not getting near to the beloved at all - and by my lights, Rodrigue is holding a candle for Carlos as well - like everyone else seems to be, even though Rodrigue arguably is much closer to the romantic hero in terms of looks - but this love can only speak its name through the notes.

This opera is really about the staging of emotions, where the music is everything, and the plot made to fit them. All the political stuff about Flanders is paper-thin in the opera, serving only to confer the nobility of the call to high office, without any sense of reality at all. I'm sure Schiller's drama is much more plausible and nuanced, but here the passionate swell of the music is all that matters. Everything is underpinned by sexual feeling - there is no spirituality here at all, really. Every character's deepest longings are sexual, which is why the tactile way of acting is so electrifying. One can forget the drama, almost, as the truth of the music is almost abstract, somewhere else. This is why the simple staging, with uber-concrete props - a touch of Piero della Francesca - is so effective. What it amounts to is effectively a piece of overwrought tosh, which nevertheless pulls us in by the strength of its archetypes - singing out from the characters' deepest longings in worldly terms, the body finding a perfect parallel in the voice.
99 Comments| One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 26 March 2014
Many consider the original French version superior to the Italian re-write (called Don Carlo). Personally I have both on DVD and find it hard to decide on a preference. The opera is a masterpiece of the highest order in spite of the librettists silly decision to have a couple of appearances of Philip's father as a ghostly figure.
I have given this five stars because the production is very good and especially because the cast is absolutely outstanding. Roberto Alagna acts and sings brilliantly in the title role. Karita Mattila and Waltraud Meier in the two female roles look wonderful and act and sing to perfection. The other two male roles are filled by Jose van Dam as Philip and Thomas Hampson as Rodrigue, both of whom are outstanding. It is really a dream cast on top form. It is also quite rare to find a cast that all look the part.
The voices are well recorded but the orchestra only adequately. My one reservation is that for a lot of the time the synchronization between lip movements and sound is slightly off. This is an irritating distraction.
However, on the whole, a must have production.
0Comment| One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 18 February 2015
I was listening to this alongside the Met version from around 1984 with Freni and Domingo. and I was surprised that the sound on the Met version was better than on this 1996 recording. The voices get a fair shake at the Met, but the microphone placement at the Chatelet didn't really do justice to the voices there. This isn't a matter of the Met having "bigger" voices compared to the French version (though mostly they do) -- it's an engineering decision, and it's a pity. Even Karita Mattila, who can certainly encompass the Met, seemed short-changed at times here. Given too that my DVD sound system quality isn't high, so much the worse. So if, like me, you like this opera a lot, you kind of have to fill in imaginatively what the microphones don't give you. And even so, you can hear the quality of the singing -- Pappano has a lighter touch than Levine, in keeping with the human scale of the whole production, and the French has a fluidity and elegance to it that's very appealing. Also, the relative lack of "Italianate" richness of sound enables us to hear the distinctiveness of Verdi's writing in this opera. The ensembles and the arias have a freedom of composition that's different from even "Aida" and "Forza." It isn't looking forward to "Otello" either -- it just has its own distinctive character.

If "Italianate" is what you want, the 1984 Met's your show. Many of the principals are getting long in the tooth, but they sing very well, and the orchestra catches and defines the heavy opulence of Philip's court in a way that corresponds to the sets and staging and yet has plenty of energy. By contrast, the Chatelet sets look a bit low-budget, the costumes are simpler, the stage pictures less full of choristers and extras, so "Imperial Spain" isn't evoked. The problem for the lovers here is a crusty old husband who happens to be King. It's a human drama. And it works, because the singers seem to have bought in to the concept. Intimate moments and moments of one-to-one confrontation are powerfully done.

The audience responded to this performance with enthusiasm, so I'm guessing the voices made themselves heard just fine -- Chatelet seats about 1100 fewer than the Met. Still, Alagna's voice sounds just a bit light. It's focused, he phrases very well, he never forces his tone, but at times he can sound a bit wiry and unresonant. Impressively, he doesn't seem at all bothered by the fact that he's just about as high as Mattila's belly-button. And he must have been pacing himself, for in places it was as if the bloom was turned on -- The "Io vengo a domandar grazia" scene in Act 2 was very special -- more moving than Domingo and Freni, with the actors' movements better staged. The same was true of the final duet scene -- just stunningly sung and acted. Mattila throughout never put a foot wrong -- she's a wonderful actress as well as a great voice, and while Alagna got the big applause at the end, I thought Mattila was the real star of the show. Waltraud Meier's Eboli was vividly acted, but the veteran Grace Bumbry sang better in the 1984 version. Hampson's was a very touching Rodrigue -- he seemed really at home with Pappano's lyric concept -- where Louis Quilico was honorable but not exceptional. The Kings make for a fascinating comparison. The great Jose van Dam is often listed as a bass-baritone, while the great Nicolai Ghiaurov is the full big bass shilling. Both were marvelous. Van Dam's voice is not opulent, but it's focused, and he has the notes, and he can phrase and act with the best of them. Ghiaurov in his great soliloquy sang with beauty, power, as needed, and pathos. I wouldn't have missed either. And Van Dam got at a brutal streak in Philip in the late scenes that Ghiaurov didn't go for but which was effective. So pay your money and take your choice -- or, better, get both. Serious people need both the French and Italian versions, don't they?

NOTE: In one respect, Chatelet outdid the Met. For all the imperial scale, the Met only set light to two heretics in the auto-da-fe scene. The Chatelet burned six and actually let us see the flames and smoke!
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 26 June 2012
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.

0Comment| 4 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 13 March 2014
The blu-ray release of this 1996 Pappano/Luc Bondy/Chatelet (French) Don Carlos has only one audio track, and even though it's labeled "stereo" it is in fact mono. There is no surround and the poor video is no significant improvement over the DVD. The performance is spectacular from several of the principals - we're not going to have the likes of them any time soon (not in the French version).

I gave it one star to draw attention to Kultur/Warner's abysmal standards (the Kultur and Warner releases are identical). The new 1997 Vick Manon Lescaut Blu-ray from Glyndebourne on Kultur/Warner is also in mono only! Beware of any future Kultur/Warner re-releases in blu-ray.
22 Comments| 10 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 3 March 2014
Don carlo(s) is my all time favourite opera and this particular version is amongst the best performed on video. I have the DVD version and am looking forward to a remastered blu ray upgrade. However the video transfer makes me wonder if I have inserted the old DVD disc instead. The picture is fuzzy and the PCM sound was only a slight improvement to the Dolby stereo on the old DVD. The only improvement is that the DVD version was done in letterbox ratio and blu ray filled up the 16:9 screen. I still give it 5 stars as I don't want to pull down the rating of this wonderfully sung and acted performance. But if you are hoping the blu ray transfer will vastly improve on the DVD version you might be disappointed like me.
11 Comment| 14 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 20 March 2009
Getting to know opera on cd long before you see it live or on dvd often results in disappointment. The pictures you've formed in your head may be far more dramatic, realistic or just plain believable than what's presented to your eyes. After getting to know Don Carlo through the Karajan EMI recording it was a huge letdown for me to turn to the Salzburg DVD with some of the same principles - Karajan himself, Carreras, Cappuccilli, Baltsa. The eight years between the two recordings had taken their toll on the first three and the only positive addition was the Filippo of Ferruccio Furlanetto. Production was murky and confused, acting (apart from Furlanetto) of the old stand-and-shout school, the whole affair somewhat ramshackle. I decided I'd overestimated the work itself and left it at that before reading reviews of this Theatre du Chatelet Don Carlos. Being in the original French and in a whole different version of this many-versioned opera, it gave me an excuse to spend my hard-earned cash on yet another Don Carlo(s) recording. Wise decision.

This Don Carlos has not only restores my faith in the work itself, I also count it as one of the best all-round operas I have on dvd. Everything that is wrong in the Salzburg production is right here. Sets are simple and serve the story well. Acting, all round, is superb. Pappano's conducting is precise, sensitive, thoroughly Verdian, and totally in synch with the singers. All principles are in top voice. I'm no great fan of Alagna but here he gives the performance of a lifetime in the title role, reminding us of why he was originally touted as Pavarotti's successor. Mattila, as Elisabeth, is excellent and, of course, great to look at. Playing Princess Eboli, Meier starts a little shakily but goes from strength to strength as the opera progresses. Hampson, as Rodrigue, silences those who claim he cannot sing Verdi and his interaction with Alagna is completely convincing . Van Dam gives us a Philip far more three-dimensional than usual and his Act 4 scene with the Inquisitor is perhaps the climax of this reading. Most of all, the story makes sense, flows, holds together, far better than in any other performance I've seen or heard. Whether this should be credited to this particular version, the director, conductor or whoever makes no difference, it's a triumphant success. Only the very last lines, where the friar/Carlo V reappears to drag Don Carlos offstage, fail to convince. But unlike the Salzburg production, at least here you can make out what happened and have an inkling of what Verdi might have had in his mind's eye. It just doesn't quite work.

Director Bondy gives us a different slant on the relationship between some of the principles, chiefly between Rodrigue, Philip and Don Carlos. Viewers will make up their own minds as to what's happening and whether it makes sense. For me, it certainly does. In his book on Verdi's operas Charles Osborne dismisses the original French Don Carlos out of hand. I wonder if he ever saw it. There is absolutely nothing here to suggest that Verdi was unsympathetic towards the French language or struggled to mesh it with his music. On the contrary, this production underlines what a brilliant man he was, how he was able to adapt his technique to a language other than his native one as if to the manor born. I'd encourage anybody who loves this work and has an open mind to try this Chatelet production.
0Comment| 21 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse

Sponsored Links

  (What is this?)