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2006-12, Vienna, Don Carlo

Don Carlo

(Four act version in Italian)

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Composer: Guiseppe Verdi
Librettist: Joseph Méry and Camille du Locle after Schiller’s drama, Cormon’s drama and Prescott’s history. Revised in 4 acts by du Locle, translated into Italian by Angelo Zanardini based on Achile de Lauziéres’ original version
Venue and Dates: Vienna Staatsoper
8, 11, 14, 18, 21 December 2006
Conductor: Marco Armiliato
Director/Designer: Pier Luigi Pizzi
Performers:
Philipp II: Matti Salminen
Don Carlo: José Cura
Rodrigo, Marquis of Posa: Simon Keenlyside
Elisabeth de Valois: Olga Guryakova
Princess Eboli: Luciana D´Intino
Grand Inquisitor:  Kurt Rydl
Monk: Goran Simic
Tebaldo: Laura Tatulescu
Count Lerma / Herald: Vladimir Moroz
Voice from Heaven: Ileana Tonca

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Soundbites

A review from the Neue Merker Forum by Karl Löbl

Translated by Ursula Turecek

Is José Cura off-colour?

Verdi’s Don Carlo at the State Opera offers encounters with four castings that are new for Vienna.

This time the piece should have been called Elisabeth de Valois for once. Olga Guryakova, born in Siberia, has a warm, soft voice that is capable of sympathising intimacy as well as of dramatic attack. Her Italianita has a Slavic colouring, her acting authenticity.

Introverted rebel

Simon Keenlyside, arguably one of today’s most versatile baritones, is an introverted rebel as Posa, a veritable friend, and he performs the great scene with the King and the one in jail with strong expression, using his voice full of character in a superior way.

Luciana D’Intino (Eboli) is of virtuoso aggressiveness in both her arias and conscious of her appeal.

Matti Salminen (Philipp) makes above all the cabinet-scene a touching portrait of human loneliness and political powerlessness, the latter also due to Rydl (Grand Inquisitor) who made his debut at the State Opera 30 years ago to the day.

Marco Armiliato and the orchestra were not exactly demure when it came to volume and precision.

Vocally off-colour?

José Cura as Don Carlo, the fourth new casting, subdued Verdi to a vocal freestyle as for intonation, rhythm, dynamics. The piani more spoken than sung, explosive outbursts in Verismo-manner, no consistent line – was he vocally off-colour? Sadly signs of wear cannot be ignored.

A review from the Kurier (JuS)

Translated by Ursula Turecek

An accomplished Verdi with the exact dose of drama and tragedy. But also with the ability in between to make arise lightness and even tenderness. And an orchestra that realises all of this – mostly singer-friendly – with dedication and fire: “Don Carlo” (the Italian one) under the conducting of Marco Armiliato and [with] some brilliant role debuts at the Vienna State Opera.

The most remarkable among the role debuts: Simon Keenlyside as a differentiated and rather lyric Rodrigo, competent in all registers. The one with the most character: Luciana D’Intino as resolute and impressive Eboli. The most promising one: Olga Guryakova as young, present and accomplishedly passionate Elisabeth. The most disappointing one: José Cura as Don Carlo who tried to cope with the part mainly with force. This did not always work. In addition and established: Matti Salminen as a noble, deeply human Philipp II and Kurt Rydl as Grand Inquisitor who vocally is not completely compact any more.

Musically an impressive evening. The exceedingly static production (Pier Luigi Pizzi) did nothing to improve this. Cheers for everybody, some boos for José Cura.

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Wiener Zeitung, 11 December 2006 (Rainer Elstner)

Translated by Ursula Turecek

Amazing role debuts

Around the State Opera roared Christmas-madness, in the State Opera a special parcel was tied up. No less than five role debuts were to be experienced in Verdi’s “Don Carlo”.

Vladimir Moroz delivered a proof of his talent as herald. Luciana D’Intino was a fervently loving Eboli, vocally projecting and bulky. Olga Guryakova began a little nervously, became better and better in the course of the evening and was finally an Elisabetta of great elegance and vocally easy directness. Compact and concentrated José Cura as Don Carlo.

Sure enough at his side stood a Marquis Posa who stole his show: Simon Keenlyside seized upon all but the whole opera with youthful radiant power, as if it was called “Rodrigo”. His fate affected, the voice was powerful and used in an extremely musical way. In short: Perfectly cast.

Kurt Rydl’s vocal basis as Grand Inquisitor was reliable, even if the top crumbles ominously. Matti Salminen touched as Philipp II in the lonesome solo of the third act, assisted by a cello-solo of somnambulistic certainty.

Else from the orchestra pit there was nothing extraordinary – with the exception of wiggly entries – to be heard. The conductor Marco Armiliato tried honestly for verve.

Top-class role debuts

Der Standard, 11. 12. 2006 (pch)

Translated by Ursula Turecek

Strained tenor

“Don Carlo” at the Vienna State Opera

“Today’s performance is sold out” is displayed at the box-office minutes before the beginning of the performance. There is a great throng, the 73rd representation of Don Carlo lures with names like José Cura and Simon Keenlyside. But it was only the latter who was able to come up to expectations: Vocally distinctive, focused as a character and with stage presence he did a Marquis Posa in whose friendship until death you believed.

Cura lacked this credibility for the most part. He propelled his tenor to top-notes in a strained way, but a feeble intonation deprived them of any radiant power. Though in his approach to Elisabetta Cura backed staginess, he was not able to convey the trepidant emotion behind it. The feelings’ fateful dimension that Verdi manages to capture in a harmonic change during the lovers’ meeting was given away by Cura.

But eventually it was audible in tender passages – Posa’s death for example – that emotion fell victim mainly to Cura’s forced vocals. Olga Guryakova’s Elisabetta sounded tender too; she used her soprano flexibly and was even increasingly able to make it flourish, thus finally adding colour to the character.

Nuances were abundantly at the disposal of Luciana D’Intino’s Eboli and she succeeded in the change from arrogance to repentant self-awareness. Matti Salminen (Philipp II) and Kurt Rydl (Grand Inquisitor) were always masters of the situation but they lacked articulate pronounciation of the words. Salminen’s intensity at “She never loved me” compensated. Though Marco Armiliato urged the orchestra to detailed work he barely paid attention to balance. Everyone had to sing against a superiority of sound. Bloopers with the entries and in the interplay were at an unphilharmonic level.

Der Neue Merker (Martin Robert Botz)

Translated by Ursula Turecek

Vienna State Opera: Don Carlo, 18. 12. 2006

The particular performances within a series can produce very different results – this time it was the fourth of five evenings. Basically everything was perfect: the orchestra stroke up beautifully in a committed way, Marco Armiliato was a conductor with intense dedication and there was a cast of first-class singers. Yet we were not too happy before the interval because the volume level was far too high. If everything is forte there is too little space for the orchestra’s great cumulations and outbreaks. Luckily none of the singers perished in the orchestral waves. But we hear that Armiliato conducted the opera for the first time and he did so without a single rehearsal with the orchestra. This was bold!

But after the interval a completely different acoustical image presented itself: Suddenly the sound relations were right, there were numerous coherent piani and a very well executed balance of the score. So we were reconciled and the conductor finally is entitled to a plain bravo.

As for the singer of the name part: You may like his way of singing or not, you could also say that he sings rather in a veristic manner or like in Puccini, but nobody is left cold by José Cura’s Carlo. He had a good evening and received only bravos.

Utterly wonderful was Simon Keenlyside’s Posa. The intensive Mozart-singing adds a noble, precious, lyric brilliance to his voice which allows a convincing performance in this role too. His great scene and the duet with Carlo in jail were the evening’s absolute climax.

Olga Guryakova/Elisabetta’s timbre has something of the pure, angelic tone you’d expect for this part not only since Freni. Her aria in the last act turned out optimally. But with vocal expansion she should pay attention to the natural limitations of her voice.

Luciana D’Intino as Eboli is able to wow with impressive vocal force and full dramatic energy. But at the same time she can sing in a very differentiated manner, in “O don fatale” for example, so she does not only stake on power.  Regarding the timbre and the dark power of his voice Kurt Rydl is an excellent Grand Inquisitore, his tremolo kept within tolerable limits this time. With Goran Simic/Monk you always have the impression that he might have had more potential in his voice. Laura Tatulescu/Tebaldo-Page and Ileana Tonca/voice were to be classified as good so far. The vocal limitations for Vladimir Moroz/Lerma-herald seem to be rather narrow.
The Italian version of this opera is certainly much more dramatic and effective than the original version which is nevertheless fascinating. What becomes incomprehensible because of the abatements in the Italian version is the emotional relationship between Elisabetta-Carlo for example or why Eboli and the Queen are confounded.

In any case there was unanimous, strong applause, bravos for everybody, according to my impression most for Keenlyside (which was completely correct).

Kronen-Zeitung, 12 December 2006 (OL)

Translated by Ursula Turecek

You can hardly do better!

“Today’s performance: Sold out”: That’s what the sign above the State Opera’s box office says. That is hardly amazing with this cast in the current performance series of “Don Carlo”! Because the cast list reads like the Who’s who of the operatic world, and the numerous role debutants cause general enthusiasm.

Other opera houses offer a combination of singers like this as the cast for first nights, here it is “common” repertory. But nothing is common at all: With the right tempi Marco Armiliato makes Verdi speak, seethe and brim over. The orchestra’s sound radiates impressively.

Simon Keenlyside as Marquis Posa presents first-class acting and hits the requirements of the part meticulously. His voice is meaty and powerful, each nuance balanced accurately. Perfect.

José Cura as Carlo draws a character full of passion and devotion, full of italianità and fire. Carlo – worked out to the last detail. He builds the psychological subtleties exactly. That finally some boos strayed into the chorus of bravos was incomprehensible, unnecessary, embarrassing!

Matti Salminen as booming Philipp shows Hunding’s blackness but also a personality that is tragically bursting open.

The ladies are excellent: Luciana D’Intino is a new Eboli with dramatic potential and expressiveness: brilliant vocally and in her acting! Olga Guryakova as Elisabeth shows her wonderfully flexible timbre and her well employed voice. Kurt Rydl is a dangerious Grand Inquisitore, Goran Simic a solid monk.

You can hardly do better!

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Larry L Lash for Opera News April 2007

In the garden scene of Wiener Staatsoper’s revival of Pier Luigi Pizzi’s Don Carlo (seen Dec. 11), the audience was treated to Eboli emulating golden-age diva moves; Carlo on his knees, banging his head in a Marlon Brando impersonation; and Posa, deep in Shakespearean soliloquy, talking to himself in Italian. Verdi’s brooding masterpiece needs great singers, to be sure. It would also help if they had some stylistic similarities, a few rehearsals and maybe a director.

Pizzi’s stark settings and gargantuan iron gates force the action downstage. This probably worked when director and cast had ample time to dissect the interpersonal relationships of this complex tragedy, but seventeen years later, the present cast, assembled for five performances, had perhaps two days of rehearsal. Four of the five were new to the production.

José Cura, a “Method” actor if there ever was one, cut a dashing figure in black leather with a red ribbon; his Carlo was unhinged from the get-go. The role lies perfectly for his chiaroscuro-producing, baritonal tenor, permitting some indulgent but thrilling Corelli-like sustained top notes.

From the moment Posa bounded onstage, Simon Keenlyside firmly established his mesmerizing, naturalistic presence. There is a boyish, playful spontaneity to everything he does, a meaning from every glance, every movement of a finger. Suave in style, Keenlyside made a thing of beauty of the trill most baritones fake and showed a seemingly endless, ringing top.

As Eboli, Luciana D’Intino seemed to be channeling Fedora Barbieri, complete with register breaks, glottal attack, a tacked-on gutsy bottom register and outstretched palms. Every aspect of her high-camp attack seemed calculated to the nth degree (including a kiss tossed at the podium after “O don fatale”), but it was, nevertheless, an exciting performance.

Almost thirty years after his company debut as Filippo, Matti Salminen, giant of stature and of voice, proved he still has the goods. The slight wobble entering his sonorous black bass only served to heighten the vulnerability he brought to the role, making his artfully shaded “Ella giammai m’amò” incisive and triumphant.

In such extroverted company, Olga Guryakova basically stood still, fingering her crucifix, trying to look dignified. While she has the porcelain beauty of a Russian ballerina, one wanted a warmer, more Verdian sound for Elisabetta, with more bloom on top.

Grand Inquisitor Kurt Rydl’s voice is amazingly similar to Salminen’s (how interesting to have two legendary Hagens onstage together!), but Rydl’s now sounds covered and wobbly. Vladimir Moroz sang the Herald’s four solo a cappella lines so sharp that the chorus followed his pitch, embarrassing themselves at the orchestra’s reentrance.

The only reason such disparate forces managed a coherent, compelling performance was the hard work of Marco Armiliato, the glue that held the whole affair together. Brilliant in the dramatic sweep of the auto-da-fé ensemble, passionate and turbulent in the prelude to Act IV and thrillingly building momentum in the final duet, Armiliato elevated a mid-season repertory performance to something musically unforgettable.

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