Verdi: Don Carlos

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Verdi
LABELS: Naxos
WORKS: Don Carlos
PERFORMER: Lars Cleveman, Jaakko Ryhänen, Peter Mattei, Hillevi Martinpelto, Bengt Rundgren, Ingrid Tobiasson, Martti Wallén; Royal Swedish Opera Chorus & Orchestra/Alberto Hold-Garrido
CATALOGUE NO: 8.660096-98
Like most recordings of Verdi’s fourth and greatest Schiller setting, this is sung in Italian using the ‘Modena version’ of 1886 – that is, the 1884 La Scala revision of Acts II to V, preceded by a shortened version of the original Parisian Fontainebleau act.

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Recorded live at the Royal Swedish Opera, it is masterfully driven by Alberto Hold-Garrido, whose full-blooded, immaculately detailed account of the score is its strongest suit. The Swedish Opera Orchestra is superlative. And there are some distinguished voices, notably Hillevi Martinpelto’s supple, soaring Elisabetta, three outstanding basses – Jaakko Ryhänen’s domineering yet troubled Philip, Bengt Rundgren’s terrifying Grand Inquisitor and Martti Wallén’s imposing Old Monk – and best of all, Ingrid Tobiasson’s thrilling, bravura Eboli. Peter Mattei’s Posa is elegantly articulated and resolute (just listen to the way he rolls the ‘r’ in ‘A me il ferro’ in the Act III finale), as is Lars Cleveman’s robust Carlo. Yet for all the sensational singing, the performance doesn’t always gel dramatically. Posa and Carlo both seem to die without suffering. And the full horror of the auto-da-fé scene never, as it were, fully ignites.

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In terms of drama, atmosphere, horror and sheer vocal gorgeousness, it doesn’t quite equal Giulini’s starry 1970 analogue account, with Domingo, Caballé, Verrett, Milnes and Raimondi. Nor Pappano’s outstanding 1996 performance (EMI) in the original French, with Alagna, Mattila, Meier, Thomas and van Dam – like this one, a clean, vivid, immediate-sounding live recording. But for anyone looking for a modern Italian version, this is highly recommended nevertheless. Claire Wrathall