Four of the world's favorite operatic talents sat down on Monday to discuss the Met's new production of Don Carlo. The conductor, Yannek Nezet-Seguin, the bass, Ferrucio Furlanetto, the baritone, Simon Keenlyside, and the tenor, Roberto Alagna.
As a diehard Roberto fan, I was there to hear about the production, and to see how Roberto kibitzed in person.
At the outset, Sarah Billinghurst warned the audience that Roberto would be recording "La Navarraise" in the evening, and so would not be speaking so much. Ms. Billinghurst moderated the panel discussion, and we watched, listened, laughed, and enjoyed the scintillating repartee of these four. Each of the gentlemen were asked a question, and they all answered, sometimes all at once. Roberto is a card, and jokes at every given opportunity in a charmingly accented English. Apparently he and Simon have a running joke between them, and it made the conversation sparkle. And Roberto chimed in whenever he could, happy to be part of the bantering, and not at all worried about his voice.
Ms. Billinghurst asked about their preference in language (this new Don Carlo is mounted in Italian, but the original was written in French). Roberto proposes that the French is more romantic, and the Italian more dramatic.
When asked about this performance (he hasn't played the role since he was 32) Roberto mentioned that Peter Gelb wouldn't take no for an answer, that he wanted him to play Don Carlo, and so he learned the score in just two days. That became one of the running jokes. r Gelb practically met him with a piano player at the airport, and installed in NYC just two days ago, he got the part down.
When the questions circled around the different acting requirements of the various roles of this very deep play, the performers all had something to say. Mr. Furlanetto replied that the voice of the character comes from the mental sphere, but the capability of performing their parts comes from the ability to act...
Roberto feels that the characters themselves are all prepared within the orchestration. It's Verdi's composition that clarifies the roles, and with the addition of a clarinet, or a basson, so many layers are revealed.
All four men are deeply intellectual about their craft, and probably, about life itself. Not a chance went by to turn a pretty phrase, or add a bit of psychology to the insight. Simon noted that life is just like art, and the beauty is in the details.
We all have to "find the right color", as Simon says.
Don Carlo will be at the Met through January, and in December, the HD version will be broadcast in theatres around the world.