In the new production of Verdi's Don Carlo, the Metropolitan Opera has given New Yorkers what they love the most: an intellectual production. This current 5 hour long redux, lifted from the Royal Opera House (indeed, done as a co-production) offers the opera- going public something to chew on. With Simon Keenlyside, reprising his astounding Rodrigo, and the darling of the opera world, Roberto Alagna, interpreting Carlo, the musicality of this Italian version is firmly entrenched. Although Roberto Alagna has said that it took Peter Gelb a few years to convince him to do the role, we are so very happy (thank you, Mr. Gelb!) that he finally agreed. Perhaps a bit strenuous on his lyrical tenor voice, the role of Carlo gives Mr. Alagna an opportunity to sing outside of the aria clad formulae of other Verdi scores. The sweeping, poignant orchestration gives bent to the character of the princeling, fueling his destiny and carrying him to the end. The end, of course, wait for it: his dying onstage. Our Roberto does a really, really good death scene. (Carmen, for instance).
The grandeur of the Met's stage is used for immense soaring columns, and an awe inspiring tomb of Charlemagne, but not as well put to use for the poetic opening scene in the forest of Fontainbleu. This is where the girlish Elisabetta (Marina Poplavskaya) falls in love with the dashing and charming Carlo, and should add a bit less of austere to the mood at hand. Okay, so we're put upon from the onset to grasp the designer's intent.
Notwithstanding the rigors of the Inquisition, the time chosen for the historicity portrayed, the sets are not autocratic, but do leave a bit to be desired. What can I say: I'm a Zeffirelli kind of girl. The costumes give us that lush element, with Roberto in boots and pantaloons, and Marina in sweeping gowns that add the breath of color to the characters in play. As Philip II, Ferrucio Furlanetto grabs centerstage in an unprepossessing manner, using his superb bass notes to capture us and prove kingly, indeed. Once Elisabetta is wed to Philip instead of to Carlo, the new royal couple appears in bloodred garb, dipped in the raw essence of their time.
Ah, drama. Gotta love opera. Try and get a ticket. Immerse yourself in this magnificent production at the Met,and revel in the Don Carlo moment. It's history, truly, made flesh.