Verdi Don Carlo

What clearly works live doesn’t always translate to the small screen

Author: 
John Steane

Verdi Don Carlo

  • Don Carlo

The most enduring memory seems likely to be that of the weary face of Ferruccio Furlanetto as King Philip. The eyelids are so heavy from want of sleep that he can hardly keep them open, yet the eyes beneath are so watchful that he can scarcely afford to close them. As if the cares of state, domestic life and religion are not enough, there is this lifeless production as a further depressant. The Scala audience appears to have enjoyed it but all their applause and bravos are insufficient to warm up the chilly reception accorded it from the privileged seats in front of this television set. The camera does nothing to flatter the principal singers or to feed the imagination with its view of the stage. There is a lack of tautness and feeling for tension in the conducting, and the production, while insistent on a few incidental distractions, is conventional and formal in important matters such as the handling of ensembles. The sets are depressingly minimalist. Briefly of the cast: Fiorenza Cedolins sings the beginning of the final duet beautifully but elsewhere has the standard vibrato (not enough to deserve the opprobrium of “wobble” but too much to allow credit for firmness). Dolora Zajick is now positively unsteady but still has the range, power and breadth of tone to ensure her “O don fatale” an enthusiastic reception. Stuart Neill has a big, heroic tenor and a bigger, almost Falstaffian figure, neither quite right for the part (but he too does well in that final, sublime duet). The Rodrigo, Dalibor Jenis, gives a sincere and sympathetic performance, his style and timbre somewhere just off-centre. Anatoly Kotscherga is too blunt a presence and uncharismatic in voice to make due effect as the Inquisitor. And then there is Furlanetto. I have never thought him vocally or physically well suited to the part but in subtle ways (which include detailed attention to meaning) he has made it his own. Without him the performance would have nothing unequivocally to recommend it as worthy of the house.

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