Verdi: Don Carlos

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Verdi
LABELS: EMI
WORKS: Don Carlos
PERFORMER: José Van Dam, Roberto Alagna, Thomas Hampson, Eric Halfvarson, Karita Mattila, Waltraud Meier; Choeur du Théâtre du Châtelet, Orchestre de Paris/Antonio Pappano
CATALOGUE NO: 556 1522

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This is a live recording, made at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris, of the production which was subsequently seen at this year’s Verdi Festival at the Royal Opera House. The original five-act French version of the opera is used, with some (though not all) of the rejected material discovered some years ago by Andrew Porter reinstated, and an occasional insert from later versions. With one exception – Waltraud Meier’s Eboli, which is both over the top dramatically and all over the place vocally – the cast is exemplary. Karita Mattila, who sings the role of Elisabeth superbly, is especially touching in the farewell to her lady-in-waiting exiled by Philip II. As Philip, José Van Dam is much more effective on disc than he was in the theatre, where his poor stage presence tended to distract attention from his characterful singing. Roberto Alagna is totally convincing as the hapless, vulnerable Carlos, but the most moving and most gloriously sung performance of all comes from Thomas Hampson as Rodrigue. The Orchestre de Paris gives a superb account of Verdi’s great score under Antonio Pappano’s baton. Very occasionally, accord between pit and stage is less than perfect, but this is a very minor blemish on a first-rate performance. Charles Osborne

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Reviewed October 1996