Verdi Don Carlo
Giulini made his Covent Garden debut in 1958 with a Don Carlos which made its mark in no uncertain terms. This recording was released 13 years later and widely acclaimed; now, reissued and digitally remastered, it still stands its own as the definitive Italian version, using the composite five-act score in which Act I from 1867 has been edited to join the four revised acts of 1883. This time it all fits neatly on to six sides instead of the eight of the original release.
Giulini's starting point as ever is character: the performance as a whole is marked by warm, supportive sympathy with their great sorrow rather than anguish at the torment of their conflicts. There are times, indeed, when one wishes he would push forward ensembles a little more urgently; but the casting, shrewdly aware of the complexity of Verdi's five main characters, generates its own considerable intensity and impetus.
Domingo's Don Carlos walks a tightrope between poise and hysteria, measuring each word, exquisitely placed, and remarkably resilient in conflict with his father. It is a lastingly strong portrayal of weakness. Since hearing Ricciarelli in last year's Abbado recording (DG), there will undoubtedly be those who find Montserrat Caballe less than ideally cast as the Elisabetta. But the sadness and strength she compresses into, for instance, her ''Non pianger, mia compagna'' is typical of a performance in which Verdi singing of great beauty reveals the true dignity of her sense of betrayal and failure.
Shirley Verrett's Eboli is a fine study in the development of both love and hate, her voice vibrant with the 'capriccio' of the wounded tigress, her chest register raw and earthy, her top brilliant and expressively volatile. Rodrigo could hardly find a more sympathetic advocate than Sherill Milnes, whose firm yet supple phrasing epitomizes the tenacity of the man, while Ruggero Raimondi's Philip II, with the unique purity and expressive breadth of his lowest register, sings as one who has looked deep into the heart of darkness. Watch out, too, for Simon Estes' Monk, a vignette which contributes a sense of menace beyond its merely temporal duration.'