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4.8 out of 5 stars
5
Verdi: Don Carlo (DECCA The Originals)
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on 11 February 2015
Don Carlo is a complex opera that fully deserves to be listened in different interpretations, and this is a great version that helped me to appreciate the opera even more (I also know Giulini's and Abbado's French version). I love Bergonzi's interpretation of Don Carlo (he has a strong accent but this may be a problem spotted only by Italian mother tongue listeners). In this specific occasion, I do not think that Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau was the best choice for Rodrigo. This set is also characterized by a very high quality recording (probably enhanced by the remastering).
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on 18 July 2017
Historic recording
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 20 February 2015
Within five years of one another were recorded two of the great opera recordings, both of Verdi's "Don Carlo," both with Covent Garden forces: Solti's from 1965, and Giulini's from 1970. Both have excellent sound quality, and both are very strongly cast. Both are "five-star" recordings, and I don't think there's much to be gained by looking for reasons to say that one is definitely superior to the other. There are differences to be noted, but they don't amount to much more than differences, and personal preferences can be left to sentimental attachments to this or that singer. For example, the lack of "Italianate" tone by Fisher-Dieskau doesn't bother me one bit, though in no way is he any better than Sherrill Milnes, whose Rodrigo was one of the best things he ever did. One can tell too that Domingo had a bit more heft in his voice than Bergonzi, but Bergonzi's singing is so focused and beautiful in tone that it silences criticism. The two Ebolis, Verrett and Bumbry are both splendid, and Raimondi's King Philip was a match for Ghiaurov in pointedness of expression and beauty of tone. The Inquisitors were interestingly different, I thought. Talvela, for Solti, sounded like the Commendatore in "Don Giovanni" -- a spokesman for an otherworldly authority. Foiani, for Giulini, was a more human interlocutor for the King, but no less effective. In the auto-da-fe scene, I thought the Giulini recording had a tad more presence, and the Voice from Heaven sounded appropriately anguished. Both Fisher-Dieskau and Milnes in that scene made their single solo utterances with terrific authority. As far as the conductors were concerned, it was swings and roundabouts -- in the Philip-Inquisitor scene, Giulini seemed more urgent and the confrontation more dramatic -- and to my surprise, I discovered later that he was actually a bit slower! I give the edge to Giulini too in the auto-da-fe, but I preferred Solti in the Carlo-Elisabetta duets. Of course, it's difficult to sort out in such cases one's responses to the conductors as separate from the soloists and chorus and even from what the sound engineers have provided.

My sense of the most meaningful difference was in the sopranos. Tebaldi in 1965 was, it has been said, in vocal trouble, and the voice is certainly a coarser instrument than it was seven or eight years earlier. Caballe was relatively new on the scene, and her voice was in splendid condition. However, it's on the light side for some of Elisabetta's music, and Tebaldi sang with great spirit and a feel for the text at crucial points that Caballe didn't quite match. This bothered me only in one place, though -- and unfortunately it was in the first part of the finale. In that final scene, Caballe seemed not to catch fire or phrase with any intensity until the reprise of "Tu che la vanita." From then on, she was fine. Tebaldi, though, was all over it from the start, attacked the high notes fearlessly, dug into the words, and moved the whole thing along, Solti in full support. Bergonzi sang wonderfully throughout, but never better than at the end. Caballe and Domingo were fine there too, their farewell duet almost otherworldly, while Tebaldi and Bergonzi were earthier in attack. Obviously I have both recordings -- and I fully intend to hold on to them!
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 21 October 2010
I have a dozen or more recordings of this, perhaps my favourite Verdi opera, yet one which languished unregarded for a good half century before Bing's famous revival at the Met in 1950 with Bjorling. There never has been and now never will be a pefect recording of what remains a very dark, complex, "adult" opera, full of weighty, serious matters both personal and political, and containing some of the most glorious music Verdi ever wrote. As a bonus, the plot is largely free of absurdities unless you balk at the surreal ending when a mysterious monk who appears to be the deceased Carlo Quinto rescues his grandson Carlo from King Philip's wrath by pulling him back into the safety of the cloister.

I give it five stars despite some weaknesses as to do otherwise would be foolish given the success of Solti's taut yet flexible direction in moulding his experienced cast into a dramatically convincing ensemble. The orchestra of the Royal Opera House are wonderful - the prelude to Act 3 absolutely sings and sighs - and the sound is terrific for a recording forty-five years old, broad and spacious with merely a hint of hiss. I was mainly tempted to remove a star on account of Fischer-Dieskau's Rodrigo. His cloudy baritone was never a Verdi voice; he barks, yells and strains in moments of high drama, particularly during the confrontation with Filippo, which is emotionally gripping but vitiated by the sad contrast between Ghiaurov's big, black bass and Fisher-Dieskau's windy posturing; he simply has none of the Italianate bite and power provided by real Verdi baritones like Gobbi or Bastianini, but he is better in the lyrical exchange with Eboli in the garden in Act 2, and I suppose this is as good as he got singing the music of a composer for whom he was ill-equipped.

Other vocal drawbacks are minimal and the strengths are manifest. Bergonzi, never large of voice, compensates with beauty of tone and shading of dynamics and he makes an excellent match for Tebaldi, then in the closing stages of her career but still able to float a line and swell her voice impressively. Ghiaurov and Talvela remain the most imposing and gripping bass duo ever to record their scene, with the possible exception of Cesare Siepi and Jerome Hines. Eboli, a fiendishly difficult and disparate role with its requirement of two essentially different voices for the two big scenes, has nonetheless been well served on disc and Bumbry is up there with a roster of the finest mezzos of the last fifty years: Cossotto, Verrett, Baltsa, Simionato, Borodina et al. Hers is a seductive yet weighty sound and she really inhabits the part. Joan Carlyle is superb as a soaring "voce dal cielo".

I would not place this above other favourite recordings of the five Act version such as the 1961 studio recording by Santini with Labo, Stella, Bastianini, Cossotto and Christoff (an admittedly offbeat choice of a very hard-to-obtain set), the live 1977 La Scala set with Abbado or Giulini's famous studio recording. There are equally indispensable four Act versions, too: the other classic Santini set of 1954 and the interesting Karajan version from Berlin in 1978 - but this Solti performance remains amongst the best.
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on 7 November 2011
I'm going to be mean and knock a star off. My reasons are that Tebaldi is in decline here - yes, she still has control but her top sounds sour and a bit desperate. Tavela doesn't match Ghaiurov (why didn't they get Siepi? - Ghaiurov is marvellous but he recorded Philip II twice (in the studio) and Siepi only recorded the great aria in recital. Doh!

I disagree with RM about Fischer-Dieskau - I like him as a Verdi baritone. His Rigolletto and Macbeth are refined and his tone always attractive (though, I admit, his Jago is poor). Bumbry is very good but Cossotto or Verrett are better. Great sound and worth inclusion in your collection if you want more than one recording - if not, then I would plump for the Giulini or the Karajan 4 act set.
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