RODRIGO AND THE KING – A GREY DON CARLO

Don Carlo

Ensemble. (Foto: Miguel Lorenzo)

Don Carlos, opera by Giuseppe Verdi, composed on a French libretto by Joseph Méry and Camille du Locle. Based on the play Don Carlos, Infant von Spanien by Friedrich Schiller. First performed at the Opéra (Salle Le Peletier) in Paris on 11 March 1867. Italian version by Achille de Lauzières. Première of these production in the Palau de les Arts in Valencia on 9 December 2017. Performance on 18 December 2017.

Don Carlo: Andrea Carè
Filippo II: Alexander Vinogradov
Rodrigo: Plácido Domingo
Elisabetta di Valois: María Katzarava
Eboli: Violeta Urmana
Il Grande Inquisitore: Marco Spotti
Un frate: Rubén Amoretti
Tebaldo: Karen Gardeazabal

Cor de la Generalitat
Orquestra de la Comunitat Valenciana

Dirigent: Ramón Tebar
Regie: Marco Arturo Marelli

Muzikaal:
Scenisch:

Grey – this sums pretty much up the performance of Don Carlo(s) in Valencia, the fourth of five in this run. It’s the four act version with some individual changes.
Grey is the dominating colour on stage, and grey – over wide parts – was also the singing: no colours, no excitements, no highlights aside of a few. So let’s start with those.

THE highlight of the evening was – alas – not the singer of the title role, but the “senior” on stage, Plácido Domingo, who sang Rodrigo. May it be his more than 50 years of experience, may it be his charisma, may it be a technique that enables him to still sing like a much younger (than 76!) man – whatever it might be it bestowed us with a glorious performance. No, he is no Ettore Bastianini, no Piero Cappuccilli – he is Domingo, singing with the unmistakeable Domingo voice. But how he did it was a masterclass of Verdian singing. If there had been a competition in this performance, he would have won the first prices for the strongest voice, the best projecting, the best phrasing, and for stage presence.

The second best of the evening for me was Alexander Vinogradov as King Philipp II. Even though he is very young and not even the best makeup artist could really “cover” that fact, he was a very moving “old” king. His pain during the big aria “Ella giammai m’amo“ sounded so real that he totally captivated the audience. For a moment, they even stopped coughing – which was rare in this performance. He got a well-deserved scene applause. His warm voice is strong, big and well-placed, and also his technique is fine, as is his lively acting.

A good impression I also had of Marco Spotti as Grand Inquisitor. His voice was not as big as Vinogradov’s, a whiff more blackness would have been nice, but overall he did a good job.

Violetta Urmana as Eboli was quite good too, especially actingwise. The wicked woman suited her well. I was not buying her change to her bitterly regretting her deeds, though. Her voice is still strong in the middle register, but becoming very sharp-edged in the higher tessitura.

Maria Katzarava as Elisabetta had good moments with some good singing, but in the higher register the voice tended to become shrill and thin. The middle range was okay most of the time, with the one or the other weakness. Her acting did not convince me at all. I have seen “Elisa-betters”. Many.

Now, the title role was … grey. Andrea Carè did not have a lucky evening, I guess. Starting out with some troubles, he could not recover entirely. His voice colour is nice, and he should not have problems with high notes, but there was – from my point of view – some technique missing. He literally attacked them; too much strained pushing instead of smooth climbing, missing different colours, shades and sound intensities made it boring and lacking excitement for me. According to people who had seen him in previous performances, he was much better then.

The minor roles of Tebaldo (Karen Gardeazabal) and  Voice from heaven (Olga Zharikova) were well sung.

Kudos go to conductor Ramón Tebar, who conducted with verve, but also with warm sensitiveness, and a strong orchestra professionally followed his instructions. Hard to describe: It was great Verdi with a zest of Spanish warmth, and German accurateness – an interesting and very well-working combination.

The chorus was doing a glorious job! They deserve an extra mentioning for their strong and great singing.

The staging – a production of the Deutsche Oper Berlin, directed by Marco Arturo Marelli – left me with mixed feelings. I liked the fact that they used costumes of the time, and that they showed some realistic scenes. Too realistic, as some audience members complained, especially during the autodafé and the final scene, in which Don Carlo gets shot (!?) with other fighters for Flanders. The rest is … grey. Big grey/black blocks are the setting (didn’t we see that already 100 times?). They moved (oh!) to create different rooms or scenes. The only thing that worked with those blocks was their leaving two open spaces in the background, a horizontal and a vertical one, which created a big cross (especially in religious scenes), representing the omnipresent power of the church during this period.
Elisabetta’s dresses were black, and white, Eboli had a turquoise one, the priests red ones – but the rest was … grey.

Gabi Eder (Published on 21/12/2017)