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Verdi Don Carlo
(Chailly/Decker) Netherlands Opera, Amsterdam

Opus Arte OA 0933 D [2004]

Robert Lloyd, Rolando Villazón, Amanda Roocroft, Dwayne Croft, Jaakko Ryhänen, Giorgio Giuseppini & Violeta Urmana

Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra & De Nederlandse Opera Chorus, Riccardo Chailly, stage direction by Willy Decker

Here is a well filmed record of a notable production of this great opera, one capable of many variant interpretations. It was viewed whilst still under the spell of the superb Stockholm production. I deplore the omission of the first Act in this four act Amsterdam version. That scene (Fontainebleau! Foret Immense Et Solitaire!) establishes in France the fraught and doomed love relationship of Carlo with the future Queen of Spain, but here we have to rely on our memories of 5-Act productions.

With the DVD, director Willy Decker provides a helpful essay to explain his stance, concentrating on father/son relationships manifest in a variety of ways; "all power in heaven, on earth, in the state and in the family emanates from the father - - patriarchal power pervades all sections of the opera". The bleak, oppressive setting is derived from Philip's Pantheon de los Reyes in his Escorial, and does not suit all the scenes equally well. Nonetheless, the camera concentrates on the key figures and initial irritation with Wolfgang Gussmann's stage design concept soon passes.

The cast is strong; Rolando Villazón sings superbly, acts awkwardly deliberately - "played as an dazed inbred half-wit" after Schiller; Violetta Urmana riveting as Eboli. Robert Lloyd is tense and tetchy as Filippo, but not as moving as Christoff in "Ella giammai m'amò", nor does Dwayne Croft eclipse memories of Gobbi in Guilini's classic Don Carlo at Covent Garden. The auto-da-fe scene is heavily constrained by the setting and Amanda Roocroft (Elisabetta) battles against vocal difficulties in the last scene; she was surely in better voice at other performances? One wishes she might fulfil her dream to return to France and that Carlo might achieve his desire to become the hero of Flanders, but all hopes are stifled and destroyed.

Chailly's conducting and Concertgebouw's playing towers over all, and is the final indelible memory, all supported by impeccable sound recording and camera work.

Any opera DVD collection should have several Don Carlos, with this certainly one of them.

Note: Opus Arte in their DVD insert booklet gives the first performance (1867) incorrectly as at La Scala Milan.
The actual premiere March 1867 was at Paris and in French. Opera Rara's BBC recording (1972) before an invited audience - at which I was present - will be reviewed by Musical Pointers. That is of the "more than complete" original French version (with cuts made at the Paris rehearsals restored).


© Peter Grahame Woolf