VERDI Don Carlo
It seems a pity that the initiative and success at Turin’s Teatro Regio of the wide-ranging Gianandrea Noseda should be represented currently on DVD by this relentlessly old-fashioned production of the four-act Italian Don Carlo. Hugo De Ana’s staging is not much more than a parade of giant walls and statues and history-book copycat costumes (Eboli even gets her eye-patch and Philip his stick). By the time the final act starts you may be praying never to see another extra awkwardly negotiating 16th-century high-ranking church costume.
In front of all this a pretty distinguished singing cast injects some energy and clarity into the proceedings, at least as far as their own characters go. They are assisted by Noseda’s sensitive and authentic balancing of the score; like Abbado, he can convey this work’s large-scale atmosphere without resorting to leaden un-Italian tempos and weight.
Abdrazakov brings similar virtues to his Philip, making real the king’s loneliness and dilemmas about his son and the Inquisitor. He is also able to show human rather than semaphored reactions to Grand Operatic moments like the embassy of the Flemish deputies and the mob invasion of Carlo’s prison. More conventionally, Tézier puts a lot of expression into his Posa and Barcellona enjoys the frustrations of Eboli. All these three are in good voice, as is Vargas, whose Carlo dramatically is rather weak and weeping. On the one night in question, only the relative newcomer Svetlana Kasyan was under par. A handsome-looking stage presence who clearly knows what her part is about, she sounds less confident at both the top and especially the bottom of her range.
The sound is convincing and the filming uncontroversial. The tricky ending (here with unwanted focus on what the notes call ‘a thwacking high B for the soprano’) is as inconclusive as ever. The conductor and Abdrazakov’s Philip are worth attention. Otherwise, unless you’re obsessed by concept-less pageantry, I’d take more risks with either the Pappano/Bondy or Pappano/Stein versions, the de Billy/Konwitschny or the older Chailly/Decker.