Verdi: Don Carlo

Our rating 
2.0 out of 5 star rating 2.0

COMPOSERS: Verdi
LABELS: Opus Arte
WORKS: Don Carlo
PERFORMER: Ramón Vargas, Svetlana Kasyan, Ildar Abdrazakov, Ludovic Tézier, Daniela Barcellona, Marco Spotti; Orchestra and Chorus Teatro Regio Torino/Gianandrea Noseda; dir. Hugo de Ana (Turin, 2013)
CATALOGUE NO: DVD: OA 1128 D; Blu-ray: OA BD 7139 D

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Don Carlo, Verdi’s longest and richest opera, comes in a bewildering variety of versions. Originally written for Paris to a French libretto, it is more often sung in Italian (making it sound quite a different work), as on this DVD from Turin. The long first act, set in France, is often omitted – as here. As a result the opera, still slightly over three hours long, begins in Spain and becomes dramatically absurd with a lot of back-plot unexplained. It might have been partially redeemed if this had been a first-rate performance, but it is no more than decent, and is in competition not only with some distinguished versions dating back several years, but also with the recent wonderful account from the 2013 Salzburg Festival, with the Vienna Philharmonic, a distinguished lineup of soloists and a production which, while not wholly satisfactory, displays the leading figures in this tragic drama in all their complexity.

Here the singers are at best reasonable and the incessant close-ups show that they regard facial expressions as unnecessary: for instance, Ludovic Tézier as Rodrigo never shows the least emotion in what should be a most sympathetic and intensely involved role. Ramón Vargas as Don Carlo is too burly be at all convincing, and his voice is on the wane. The most distinguished performances come from Svetlana Kasyan as Elisabetta, fine in appearance and with a command of the grand line; and Ildar Abdrazakov as Philip, an unusually warm portrayal of a torn but ruthless ruler. Gianandrea Noseda’s conducting is disappointingly routine.

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Michael Tanner