VERDI Don Carlo – Giulini
From the day that Giulini conducted the now legendary production of Don Carlo at Covent Garden in 1958, a recording of the opera by him looked a must. In fact, it was to be 12 years before EMI took the plunge, but the set was worth waiting for: it’s the five-act version in Italian, without the cuts made at the Royal Opera, and well recorded and handsomely cast. Giulini himself had slowed down since the live performances, but the blend of majesty and lyric beauty that he brings to the opera is hard to resist. The music glows warmly in his hands, as befits one of Verdi’s most human dramas.
His cast gathers together five of the leading singers of the 1970s. In particular, the trio of Caballe, Domingo and Milnes seemed to be rather predictably the names on almost every Italian opera recording at the time, but how glad we would be to have young singers like them today. Caballe, though occasionally sounding blowsy, is exquisite whenever quiet singing is called for, and Domingo is at his golden best throughout. Their murmured farewells at the monastery of San Giusto in Act 5 have never been surpassed. Verrett is a fiery Eboli (though it is a shame Giulini did not give her more pace in ‘O don fatale’), and Milnes provides generous-hearted singing as Rodrigo. It is good to have an Italian bass as Philip II, but Raimondi lacks the black tone and fearsome presence of his notable predecessor in the role, Boris Christoff. Lovers of the opera will want to investigate the four-act version under Santini (4/93) and also the five-act version in French under Pappano (10/96), both on EMI (which has more or less cornered the market for this opera). Otherwise, 30 years on, Giulini’s splendid performance is as satisfying as any, probably still the number one recommendation.'