Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)
Filippo II - Giacomo Prestia (bass)
Don Carlo - Mario Malagnini (tenor)
Rodrigo - Simone Piazzola (baritone)
Il Grande Inquisitore - Luciano Montanaro (bass)
Un Frate - Paolo Buttol (bass)
Elisabetta di Valois - Cellia Costea (soprano)
Il Principessa Eboli - Alla Posniak (soprano)
Tebaldo - Irène Candelier (soprano)
Il Conte di Lerma - Giulio Pelligea (tenor)
Un Araldo Reale - Marco Gaspari (bass)
Una voce dal cielo - Irène Candelier
Coro Lirico Amadeus
Fondazione Teatro Communale di Modena
Orchestra Regionale dell’Emilia Romagna/Fabrizio Ventura
Video director: Tiziano Mancini
rec. 15, 17, 19, 21 October 2012, Teatro Communale, Modena
Sound Format: PCM Stereo & DTS 5.1 [DVD], PCM Stereo & DTS-HD
Master Audio 5.1 [Blu-ray]; Picture Format 16:9 [DVD & Blu-ray],
1080i [Blu-ray only]; Region Worldwide
Subtitles in Italian, English, German, French, Spanish, Chinese, Korean
Reviewed in surround.
C MAJOR 724608
The creation of Don Carlos
dragged on for
some twenty years. First performed in French at the Paris Opéra
on 11 March 1867, it soon made its way in an Italian translation to
the Teatro Comunale in Bologna in October, when the title became Don
. In 1872 this same Italian version was given at the San Carlo
in Naples with some modifications by Verdi himself. In Vienna the opera
was performed with numerous cuts because it was judged too long, and
even in Italy many wished for a shorter version. In 1882 the composer
therefore decided to review it with more radical changes in mind. In
collaboration with his librettists Camille Du
and Charles-Louis Nuitter, many modifications were made, while
Angelo Zanardini was brought in to translate the new version into Italian.
After many months of intense work, the four act version of Don Carlos
was performed at La Scala in Milan on 10 January 1884. Finally, two
years later, a five act Italian version approved by Verdi was given
at Modena. It is this version that features on the present recording,
which fittingly enough emanates from the same theatre at Modena, the
Fondazione Teatro Communale.
In whichever version, Don Carlos contains some of Verdi’s greatest
music, and some of his most subtle musical characterisation. Although
its events are far removed from historical fact, they provide the kind
of scenes at which the composer excelled, with complex characters whose
personal lives are caught up by forces larger than themselves.
The production has abundant atmosphere and always appeals to the eye,
even if there is no forest at Fontainebleau in the first act. The singing
is uniformly good, and particular praise can be directed towards Giacomo
Prestia as King Philip, Luciano Montanaro as the Grand Inquisitor and
Cellia Costea as Elizabeth of Valois. Mario Malagnini is a noble Don
Carlo, but the recording of his voice is sometimes edgy, in the first
act especially. The singers are all independently miked and perhaps
there was a slight problem with the technology.
Rodrigo, Marquis of Posa, who manages to be both Carlos’s friend
and the King’s confidant while at the same time his political
adversary, is a character drawn with the utmost musical subtlety. Simone
Piazzola sings the role more than adequately, but his appearance on
stage is marred by the hat drawn at an angle across his eye, which makes
him look like a cross between Wotan and a railway porter. It is a great
relief when towards the end of the opera the hat is removed.
Alla Pozniak as Eboli dominates the stage during her ensembles and if
her voice is less stable in pitch this has much to do with the nature
of the character’s vocal writing, with its tendency towards coloratura.
The chorus makes a reliable impression throughout and the ensembles
are handled well both dramatically and musically. Fabrizio Ventura’s
conducting brings much experience to bear upon proceedings, and there
is a palpable sense of teamwork and commitment.
With the obvious exception of Rodrigo’s hat, the costumes are
splendid, and nowhere more so than in the scene of Princess Eboli and
the ladies of the court.
The great scene of the auto-da-fe, the biggest ensemble in the opera,
is taken with slow tempi, which while missing some potential intensity,
at least brings the benefit of helping with the articulation of the
text. The lighting of this scene is splendidly effective, so too the
use of the stage space for deploying the large forces.
Recorded across four performances, the production looks appropriate
at every stage, and the presence of an audience is not unduly obtrusive.
The production team take a bow at the end and receive a deserved ovation.
Their success owes a great deal to the highly effective lighting which
is brilliantly captured by the excellent Blu-ray image, while that on
DVD is satisfactory though less spectacular in its impact. The same
might be said of the sound: outstanding on Blu-ray, highly satisfactory
on DVD. Proof of the success visually is that even when the stage is
darkened, it is still possible to see detail.
The menus are more easily accessed on the DVD version than on Blu-ray,
though once again it is depressing to report that snippets of music
are played during the process of accessing the opera. What on earth
is the point of this?
This issue is well documented with an essay and synopsis, and the disc
includes a very useful introduction to the opera done in such a way
that should appeal to the connoisseur and the novice alike - no mean
feat. Indeed, this sets a standard that one might wish for elsewhere.
There are fifty cue points on the single Blu-ray disc, and these same
cues are spread across the two DVDs. The subtitles are well synchronised
and as usual placed at the bottom of the screen but unusually, while
sensibly moving occasionally to the top when the action demands it.
This is a commendable ploy which deserves high praise.
In whichever version, this opera places Verdi alongside Mozart and Wagner
in depth and detail of musical characterisation. While this recording
from Modena does not feature any international superstars, both the
presentation standards and the performance itself are admirably focused
on achieving the highest standards possible. A firm and enthusiastic
welcome is therefore in order.
& Dave Billinge