Verdi: Don Carlos

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Don Carlos
PERFORMER: Soloists include Alastair Miles (bass), Julian Gavin (tenor), William Dazeley (baritone); Chorus of Opera North/Timothy Burke; Orchestra of Opera North/David Greed; Richard Farnes


Verdi’s largest opera, composed to a French text for Paris in 1867, exists in several versions as the composer cut and pasted the original to conform to the practicalities of Italian opera houses, where it was invariably performed in Italian translation (as it still is today, more often than not).

Founded on a recent revival by Opera North, this English-language recording (using Andrew Porter’s impeccable translation) gives us the four-act version unveiled at La Scala in January 1884, whose major loss is the entire 1867 first Act.

Without it, the opera starts in mid-action, with the love between Don Carlos and Elisabeth de Valois already sundered by her marriage to his father, Philip II; we miss out on their first meeting and their brief but crucial moment of happiness.

Vocal standards here are very respectable. In the title role, Julian Gavin’s liquid tone compensates for a stiff manner. Some moments of stress detract from Janice Watson’s Elisabeth, though her sensitive, interior interpretation is convincing.

So is Jane Dutton’s Eboli, though her occasional awkwardness intrudes on a performance which is executed on a scale smaller than ideal. William Dazeley is dependable rather than inspired as Posa. 


Best of the principals are Alastair Miles’s distinctive King Philip; John Tomlinson’s terrifying Grand Inquisitor and Clive Bayley’s Monk. Opera North’s choral and orchestral forces are both splendid, and conductor Richard Farnes proves a superb interpreter of the score. The scale and perspective of the recording are beautifully managed. George Hall