WORKS: Don Carlo
PERFORMER: Boris Christoff, Mario Filippeschi, Tito Gobbi, Giulio Neri, Antonietta Stella, Elena Nicolai; Rome Opera Chorus & Orchestra/Gabriele Santini
CATALOGUE NO: CMS 7 64642 2 ADD mono
James Levine’s performance of the five-act Italian Don Carlo (plus the opening chorus from the original French score) supersedes all other versions, not only because he conducts Verdi’s spacious score with such masterly skill and meticulous attention to detail, and has so magnificent an orchestra at his command, but also because his cast of Metropolitan Opera regulars is arguably the finest that could be assembled today for this opera.
Aprile Millo brings sumptuous tone to the role of Elizabetta, Dolora Zajick (Eboli) proves herself a real Verdi mezzo, and Kathleen Battle is lavishly cast as the Voice from Heaven. Vladimir Chernov’s beautifully-sung Rodrigo is especially impressive, and Michael Sylvester is a more than acceptable Carlo. I only wish that Ferruccio Furlanetto (Philip II) and Samuel Ramey (the Grand Inquisitor) had exchanged roles, for Ramey is the more interesting artist of the two.
The four-act version (with additional cuts) has remained popular since it was issued in 1955, and is still worth having for the superb characterisations of Boris Christoff as Philip and Tito Gobbi as Rodrigo. Antonietta Stella makes a sympathetic Elizabetta and Elena Nicolai a splendid Eboli. Carlo is sung by Mario Filippeschi, who was capable of some crude performances in the opera house, but who is on his best behaviour here. Charles Osborne