Verdi: Don Carlo at Teatro Comunale Modena | Live Review

Colin Clarke
Tuesday, November 21, 2023

A star-studded production of Verdi's masterpiece from the Teatro Comunale Modena, available to watch on OperaStreaming

****

The cast of Don Carlo | Photo: Rolando Paolo Guerzoni

The opera houses of the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy remain a treasure, and it is all credit to operastreaming.com that awareness of them is growing. In Modena, a short(-ish) drive from Bologna, the Teatro comunale Pavarotti-Freni presented (slightly ironically, given there is a Modena version) the four-act Milan version of Verdi’s great opera Don Carlo. For all of its shapeshifting (French and Italian versions, Paris, Modena, Milan, four and five acts), Don Carlo remains central to an understanding of Verdi’s genius.

It is always a shame to omit the Act 1 Fontainebleu as it sets the scene and provides context for Elisabetta and Don Carlo’s connection. But, hearing this performance, it seems churlish to complain.

The Orchestra dell’Emilia-Romagna Arturo Toscanini had more body and depth live than on operastreming. And this is an orchestra capable of real excellence – the absolutely together, in-tune and seamless opening for unison horns set the table for a feast. Conductor Jordi Bernàcer is a born Verdian, in control at all levels, including marshalling the fine Coro Lirico di Modena (especially in the auto-da-fé).

And what a relief to have a traditional staging courtesy of director Joseph Franconi Lee and, for set and costumes, Alessandro Ciammarughi: attire of the era, a statue of Carlo V, all brilliantly lit by Claudio Schmid. 

Teresa Romano as La Principessa Eboli in Don Carlo | Photo: Rolando Paolo Guerzoni

No doubting that as far as the audience was concerned, the star here was Michele Pertusi as Filippo II. The seemingly endless ovation after his great aria 'Ella giammai m’amó' was wholly deserved (Pertusi ,meanwhile, remained immobile on stage, his hands open, imploringly). His ensuing encounter with the Grand Inquisitor, a rare Verdi scene for two basses, was gripping, not least because of Ramaz Chikviladze as the Inquisitor. This Inqiuisitor was inflexible, unmoved and immovable, the very embodiment of fixed ideas. The contrast to Pertusi’s emotional King was remarkable.

Piero Pretti was a fittingly young Don Carlo, capable of the range Verdi demands of him, although notably fuller on top. His arrival at ‘Io l’ho perduta’ was as virile as they come – preceded, incidentally, by preternaturally accurate strings. Ernesto Petti was a phenomenal Rodrigo, his stage presence as fine as his burnished voice. his ‘O Carlo, ascolta’ positively laden, his scene with the Pertusi’s Filippo strong both vocally and dramatically.

The cast of Don Carlo | Photo: Rolando Paolo Guerzoni

The Princess Eboli was the astonishing Teresa Romano, her voice full, often smoky but, when required, had an edge that could cut cast iron. Anna Pirozzi, however, did not have her finest hour as Elisabetta. 'Tu che la vanità' had its approximate moments, and dramatically she seemed not entirely inside the part.

The role of the Count of Lerma doubled with that of the Herald, Andrea Galli in clarion voice. Another doubled role was Tebaldo and the Voice from Heaven, both beautifully taken by Michela Antenucci.

At the time of writing, streams total 17,121, only 422 of which were from the UK. I really do hope this review garners more views – operastreaming.com is something of a gem, and as a free resource it is invaluable. Especially with performances like this!

Watch Don Carlo on operastreaming.com

 

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