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on 23 September 2010
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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on 19 November 2010
This is a stunning DVD of Don Carlos. The Cast is wonderfull and I loved Poplavskaya Villazon Keenlyside Furlanetto and Ganassi. All of them are billiant. The stage production is beautifull and very well done. The movements of the decor panels are also very well timed and it were done very nicely and that is something that is very important to me.The orchestra under the direction of Pappano is the cherry on the cake - absolutely brilliant.

The most important thing for me on a DVd is the sound and I loved the nice warm and rich surround sound of this DVD.

The director obviously loves opera because for example the scene where the priest was doing a ritual over the music while the orchestra is playing and even talking is one of a very few places in any opera where it can really work well. The director definitely got the excact right spot and it actually gave a very nice flavour at that spesific part of the opera. I wouldnt use that idea too often though if I was an opera director but as I say in this case it was actually very well placed and not overdone.

This is one of my best opera dvd's and I just love it. The powefull sound of Poplavskaya on that last note at the end of the opera was hair-raizing.
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on 12 January 2011
I loved this Nicholas Hytner production of the 5 Act version of Don Carlo. I was going to say full version but that would have involved adding at least another hour to the opera's 3 ½ hour playing time so some form of performing compromise has to be reached.

This is an opera about the Spanish Infante, Carlo, who is betrothed to the French princess Elizabetta as part of a peace treaty between the two countries. The two meet and fall in love but their joy is brief as it is shortly announced that the peace negotiations have gone so well that Elizabetta is to marry, not Carlo, but his elderly father Philip II. So Carlo has to get used to calling his beloved, Mum.

Seeing the first act, set in the forest of Fontainebleau it is difficult to see how Verdi could countenance cutting it to make room for a ballet at the opera's Paris premiere. From the first duet between Rolando Villazón and Marina Poplavskaya we are aware that we are in for something special. Rolando Villazón has the voice and also the eye-rolling Rowan Atkinson look to play the slightly deranged Don. The exciting young Russian Soprano, Poplavskaya is a revelation as Elizabetta with a purity of tone and complete control throughout her vocal range.

Simon Keenlyside is an added bonus as the idealistic Marquis of Posa, Don Carlo's friend who persuades Carlo that his future is in Flanders, fighting for the cause of the oppressed Flanders people. There is a thrilling moment in Act II when they pledge eternal friendship. The theme from this aria recurs throughout the opera as a friendship leitmotif.

Act III has the spectacular Auto-da-fé with opponents of the Spanish Inquisition being burned at the stake. There is the suspicion here that the DVD director is protecting the viewers at home from what is seen by the audience at Covent Garden. The picture is deliberately framed so that the left-hand side of the stage is not visible. As the scene ends, the cameras draw back to show the charred bodies on the stake.

Act IV contains, arguably, the opera's best music. First there is King Philip's soliloquy sung by bass Ferrucio Furlanetto, then there is a wonderfully sinister performance from Eric Halferson as the 90 year-old, blind, trembling and utterly frightening Grand Inquisitor. The act ends with Princess Eboli, who has betrayed Elizabetta, cursing her own beauty. Sonia Ganassi, as Eboli, is possibly the weak link in this production. She has some spectacular music but is not quite up to the role in this exalted company.

In Act V, Elizabetta and Carlo are finally reconciled to being mother and son before, in Nicholas Hytner's version, soldiers of the Inquisition burst in and kill Carlo. This is a wonderful opera, one of Verdi's final three masterpieces. We have a cast of well rounded characters with no real villains except the Grand Inquisitor. Everyone is just doing their best to play the hand that fate has dealt them. The only slightly risible thing about the libretto is the way everyone is in anguish about the treatment of the Flemish. Not that I have anything against the Flemish, it's just that the political dimension of Schiller's play has probably been lost in its translation into an opera.
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on 14 January 2011
This is a landmark production of what is arguably Verdi's finest opera.
Although I usually refuse to buy opera and ballet DVDs "filmed in High Definition" that are NOT available in high definition (Blu-Ray) this was the exception because I wanted to see Rolando Villazon singing Don Carlos after having seen Roberto Alagna in the "HD Live" from the Met retransmission with the same cast and production. (Perverse, isn't it that those HD Live recordings are not available in HD either?).
The cast is superb, the production grandiose, the music and singing as good as it gets...
But having to see it in nasty, fuzzy NTSC (not even PAL !!!) with lossy sound just breaks my heart. If ever anything deserved the HD treatment it's opera. And this production in particular! I'm glad I've seen RV in the role, but I regret buying this and encouraging EMI to continue short-selling us all!
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on 23 April 2010
Some very powerful moments but I did find Willi Decker's sets a little too bleak. Not as powerful as the famous Strasbourg La Traviata. Amanda Roocroft did not look young enough for Don Carlo to fall in love with - she did look like his mother! Villazon was in good voice as was Robert Lloyd.
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on 29 September 2010
A great Don Carlo, but why is it not on Blu Ray! It is a lousy policy to first publish new recordings on DVD and year's later on Blu Ray. Gheorghiu's Traviata is a perfect example. Recording company obviously want to cash in twice.
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on 24 February 2011
I saw this on TV on one of the rare occasions when the BBC actually gave us something to justify the license fee and so was keen to buy the DVD. It does not disappoint in the slightest. Villazon is an anguished Carlos and wholly believable, Keenlyside's 'Posa' is everything you want from the role, and is very moving but, for me, two singers stand out: Eric Halfvarson as the Grand Inquisitor and the brilliant Ferrucio Furlanetto as King Philip of Spain who gives a performance that is exhausting in its power and pathos. Bravo to all concerned.
As a small aside: I own many many operas on DVD and have never been disappointed by sound or picture quality. Opera DVD's ARE very expensive but to me are worth the cost-in my opinion, the jury is still out with regard to the 'supposed' brilliance of Blue Ray and I would not be put off buying an opera DVD just because some think Blue Ray is the way opera should be going.
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on 17 January 2011
I can reccomend two DVD's of DON CARLO - that from the Theatre du Chatelet, Paris, now fourteen years old with Robert Alagna and Thomas Hampson, conducted by Antonio Pappano and the latest from London's Royal Opera House, also conducted by Pappano. This production has Rolando Villazon and Simon Keenleyside with superb sets which come over quite well on DVD. The performance holds the attention throughout and this is my preferred production.
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on 29 November 2010
This is one of the most superb operas I have seen, whether live or recorded. If you buy nothing else, buy this ... (The opera itself has always been my favourite Verdi anyway)
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on 14 November 2010
The first "live" opera I ever saw was the famous Vickers/Ghaiurov/Guilini/Visconti production in the ROH. This converted me to this media for the rest of my life (well, to date at least!).
This recent ROH production, shown to half a dozen friends at my home in Southern Spain, seems to have had the same effect.
Enough said?
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