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A worthy record of a good production,
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This review is from: Don Carlo [DVD]  (DVD)
The DVD of this 1985 production of Don Carlo from Covent Garden is a welcome addition to any Verdi collection. Masterminded by Luchino Visconti with impressive sets and traditional costumes the production was filmed for video by the very experienced Brian Large. The sound quality is good and the picture quality acceptable although, at times, there appears to be some colour fading. As is now often the case with Covent Garden's historic productions there is no booklet but the sleeve does provide a full cast list and chapter headings.
The production is fortunate to have very good singers in the six lead roles. In what is a departure from the common accepted practice Luis Lima concentrates on the introverted nature of the hapless Don Carlo at the expense of heroic posture. In a role that demands that the protagonist is dazzled by the complexities of a great love the performer is suitably emotional. The tenor has obviously given his role interpretation a great deal of thought and his well sung performance deserves every credit. The opera, which is Verdi's most complex and grandest work, is in fact kind to its subject for the actual infante, who had only four great grandparents, was mentally unbalanced, seriously vindictive and like Elisabeth de Valois was to die in the early twenties.
Always very accomplished when depicting pathos Ileana Cotrubas creates a tender Elisabetta di Valois. The soprano is very impressive during the confrontations that take place in the king's study and in her long aria in the final act. The Covent Garden reliable Robert Lloyd looks every inch the part of the autocratic and troubled king. The famous bass duets between the king and the grand inquisitor are among the high points of the production. Here Joseph Rouleau creates a memorable example of ecclesastical tyranny.
In addition to Luis Lima there are two stand-out performances. Always a solid and dependable Verdi baritone Giorgio Zancanaro shares top honours with Bruna Baglioni. Zancanaro makes Rodrigo a genuine father figure for Don Carlo and the scenes together are very touching. Bruna Baglioni captures all the changing moods of the scheming, selfserving and finally penitent Princess Eboli.
After watching this production a viewer can conclude that Don Carlo and Elisabetta are two retiring people forced by the accident of birth to participate in the demanding complexities of power politics and at such an interpretation neither Luis Lima nor Ileana Cotrubas can be bettered. For those seeking a more robust definition of the role Placido Domingo is at his ardent best in the Met's 1980s version of the opera. My own favourite is the unorthodox offering of 1996 from Theatre du Chatelet, Paris with gold star performances from Roberto Alagna and Karita Mattila.