Verdi Don Carlo

A fine production capped by Rolando Villazón’s extraordinary performance

Author: 
John Steane
 Verdi - Don Carlo - Pappano Verdi - Don Carlo - Pappano

VERDI Don Carlo – Pappano

  • Don Carlo

It was a great night at Covent Garden, though, of course, one had reservations. With the DVD they recede, I won’t say to vanishing-point but certainly to the margins, as one takes in the wonderful corporate achievement now. For instance: I thought Furlanetto’s Philip over-praised, lacking the commanding resonance, too much given to explicit emotion and emphasis, sometimes unsteady. All that is still true: it just matters less in relation to the movingly convincing portrayal of the tried and tired man. At close quarters, too, the voice reveals its finer qualities, which include the deeper sonority of the true bass.

But still more forcefully the video confirms a conviction, strongly held at the time, that Villazón’s Carlos was grievously misrepresented by the press. Then (as now) I thought that his account of the solo in Act 1 was as fine an example of singing by a tenor in Verdi as we have heard in many a year: elegant in detail, movingly expressive and endowed with that special beauty of tone which was Villazon’s distinctive gift. If he was under-powered it was only in the heated confrontations of the Auto-da-fé scene and even at that point it does not appear to be so here. What is shown very clearly is that he sustained the demanding role without any sign of tiring, forcing or losing quality towards the end. And something similar is true of the Elisabeth, Marina Poplovskaya. Hers is, in the first place, an exceptionally lovely voice, and, though in the theatre I thought her stage presence somewhat ineffectual, the dignity and restrained feeling of her performance here are deeply impressive.For the others (Eboli, Posa and Inquisitor), impressions in the theatre and on video very largely conform. Close camerawork reveals several thoughtful points in Nicholas Hytner’s production, while the chorus and orchestra under Pappano’s well-attuned direction are consistently a credit to the house.

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