Thursday, 1 June 2017

DON CARLO, Royal Opera House, 26 May 2017

Giuseppe Verdi, DON CARLO, Friday 26 May 2017


DON CARLOS                                                        Bryan Hymel

Infante of Spain

TEBALDO, Elizabeth's Page                                 Angela Simkin

ELISABETH DE VALOIS                                        Kristin Lewis

COUNT OF LERMA                                               David Junghoon Kim

COUNTESS OF AREMBERG                                Rosalind Walters

(Silent role)

RODRIGO, MARQUIS OF POSA                         Christoph Pohl

PHILIP II, KING OF SPAIN                                    Ildar Abradazakov

PRINCESS EBOLI                                                 Ekaterina Semenchuk

PRIEST INQUISITOR                                           Josh Davies

FLEMISH DEPUTIES                                           Wyn Pencarreg,

                                                                              Gyula Nagy,
                                                                              Yuriy Yurchuk, 
                                                                              James Cleverton,
                                                                               Simon Shibambu, 
                                                                               David Shipley

VOICE FROM HEAVEN                                       Francesa Chiejina

GRAND INQUISITOR                                          Paata Burchuladze

Chorus and Orchestra of the Royal Opera House

CONDUCTOR                                                        Bertrand de Billy

DIRECTOR                                                            Nicholas Hytner

This is a revival of Nicholas Hytner's pared-down, but not minimalist, production, which is effective in conveying the gloomy,brooding atmosphere of Philip II's court - the predominant colours are black, red and grey. There is very little to lighten the darkness, either physical or psychological. Here is an image from the Fontainebleau scene./

Carlos and Elisabeth were sung by Bryan Hymel and Kristin Lewis, both new to these roles.  The young soprano Kristin Lewis brought a freshness and clarity to the role, she was especially touching in the Fontainebleau scene.....this is always heartrending, because you KNOW what is going to happen.......and you watch Elisabeth change from a hopeful young girl to a sad, disillusioned woman. Kristin Lewis is able to encompass all the varied demands of Elisabeth's role and obviously has a deep understanding of the text. She is well-matched by Bryan Hymel - the role of Carlo also makes varied demands on the voice of the tenor, as he is plunged from hope to despair. Here they are together in their brief moment of happiness (which has no equivalent in Schiller's play, but is nonetheless very moving). He was very convincing in his portrayal of Carlo's vulnerability.

All in all a splendid cast. Christoph Pohl as Posa was perhaps rather subdued in the first scene with Carlo, though his singing is never less than mellifluous. The scene with King Philip - Ildar Abdrazakov - was thrilling in its intensity, especially when Posa criticises Philip's 'peaceful' Spain as 'the peace of the grave'. 'Orrenda, orrenda pace! La pace e dei sepolcri!' (Literally from Schiller's 'Die Ruhe eines Kirchhofs!') Philip advances on Posa while the orchestra GROWLS, and I started thinking,...'He's going to hit him, isn't he......' But the moment passes.

Not all the scenes caught fire like this, but everything was very competently done, and the smaller roles - Tebaldo, the Count of Lerma, the Flemish Deputies - acquitted themselves admirably. Ildar Abdrazakov rose to heights of pathos and despair in 'Ella Giammai m'amo', and the scene with the Grand Inquisitor - Paata Burchuladze - was spine-chilling, especially when the Inquisitor enunciated 'Tutto tacer dovra per esultar la fe'......this is all on one note, and Verdi manages to extract the maximum terrifying power from it.

To sum up - a very competent performance, which at times rose to heights of dramatic tension. I loved the precision and the well-judged tempi of the orchestra under Bertrand de Billy.

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