S. Holmes | Wilmette, IL United States | 08/07/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This video, originally released in 1984 on Laserdisc and scheduled for DVD release on Aug. 21, 2001 is a must-have for any serious opera collector. Where, today, could you find a cast of this calibre: Freni, Domingo, Bumbry, Quilico, Ghiaurov and Furlanetto, conducted by James Levine? The sets are austere yet atmospheric and the costumes are beautiful and of the correct period -- a quality rarely seen in today's opera houses. The performance from March 1983 finds all the singers in fine voice. Freni, Domingo (even with a crack or two), Ghiaurov and Furlanetto are not to be faulted. Miss Bumbry's tendency to sharp slightly and in some instances distance herself from the music (you can see the technical gears working) and Mr. Quilico's blustery manner are small flaws that once gotten used to, seem to fade into the background of this generally outstanding document. Mr. Levine'a authoritative, stylish and energetic conducting coaxes an exciting performance out of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and David Stivender's chorus. This is a live performance so sometimes a microphone may pick up a violin or a soprano or tenor chorister's voice a little too accurately, but again -- that is a small price to pay for this calibre of performance. This DVD is heartily recommended and will hold it's place for a long time to come as THE video DON CARLO to have. Also, the DVD quality of this performance is to be looked forward to because of the flawed pressings on the Pioneer Laserdics when they were originally released. Bravo, Pioneer for making this DON CARLO availabale, finally, on DVD!"
Verdi's opera of love and politics
E. A. Lovitt | Gladwin, MI USA | 04/26/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Under the sensitive direction of James Levine, Placido Domingo plays Don Carlo, heir to the Spanish throne, as close to the edge of madness. I think this interpretation works much better than playing him as Schiller's romantic hero--plus it's more accurate, since the historical Don Carlo was reputedly insane.
Levine's production is a majestic, somber interpretation of Verdi at his most Spanish, and is visually gorgeous.
This 1983 Metropolitan Opera "Don Carlo" is also one of the best cast (except for Louis Quilico as Rodrigo), and most haunting of all my Met Verdi DVDs. Mirella Freni has been criticized as not having a 'big enough' voice for the role of Elisabeth de Valois, but I think she is perfect: regal, beautiful, sweetly sorrowful. Her duet with Domingo in the oft-omitted Fountainbleu scene has a tremulous delicacy, made all the more poignant because we know her page is about to show up and tell her that she must marry Phillip II, not Don Carlo with whom she has just fallen in love.
Even though Sam Ramey is my favorite Phillip II, voice-wise (in Ricardo Muti's 1992 La Scala production), Nicolai Ghiaurov is perfect as the ruthless, morbidly Catholic tyrant. When he first appears on camera, I thought, "My god, that man IS Phillip II." What an eerie resemblance. He even sings with a Castillan lisp. Ghiaurov commands the stage, whether he is bullying his somewhat wimpy son, tormenting his sorrowful queen, or bargaining with the evil Grand Inquisitor (Ferruccio Furlanetto). When he sings his Act IV aria, "Ella giamma m'amo," his introspective interpretation rounds out his character, not as a haughty king, but as a suffering older husband who knows his beautiful young Queen will never love him.
Grace Bumbry is a haughty, calculating, technically gorgeous Princess Eboli, right down to her historically correct eye-patch. I didn't find her seductive--becoming King Phillip's mistress seemed to be a business transaction for her. She was a little too cold to really convince me that she had a change of heart about the Queen in the Act IV study scene, but Bumbry absolutely rips the 'Veil Song' in the garden. I've never heard it sung better. Her aria of repentance, "O don fatale," was the perfect cap to her character, and deserved its long ovation.
What a performance! Ghiaurov IS the King. Freni IS the Queen. Domingo IS Don Carlo. The only casting mistake was Quilico's blustering, smirking Rodrigo. I could not understand what Don Carlo or the King ever saw in his character. Plus he sounded strained and tinny, especially in the duets with Domingo. I understand this was one of Quilico's break-through roles back in the 1960's, but he does not adorn this otherwise marvelous performance. "
Good, but not great
manrico353 | Rochester, NY United States | 06/02/2002
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This version of Don Carlo (my favorite opera of all time) had some good qualities but there were also some qualities that definitely needed improvement.The good aspects:1. This is an Italian, full five-act version that even includes the peasant chorus at the very beginning. The first act (Carlo and Elizabeth in Fontainebleau) is very essential to the opera; it is full of beautiful music, character development, and it provides the only remotely happy moment in the three and a half hours this opera lasts.2. Placido Domingo as Carlo. Placido Domingo is THE Carlo.3. Mirella Freni as Elizabetta. Her performance of Elizabetta is good, though not as good as Montserrat Caballe as Elizabetta.4. Ferruccio Furlanetto as the Grand Inquisitor. His appearance and his voice are both chilling in this performance.The bad aspects:1. James Levine takes several parts of the opera way too fast. For example, he seems to rush through Rodrigo and Carlo's oath of friendship in Act II.2. Louis Quilico as Rodrigo. Louis Quilico should be replaced by Sherrill Milnes. Quilico just seems to breeze through Rodrigo's lines, and his acting abilities leaves a lot to be desired. For example, Rodrigo's outburst act the end of Act II, "Orrenda, orrenda pace! La pace de sepolchri!" should sting. But Quilico manages to make it sound very bland.3. Grace Bumbry as Eboli. Her singing is a bit sharp, and after hearing Shirley Verrett as Eboli, Bumbry seems rather inadequate as the vengeful, vicious princess.4. Betsy Norden as Tebaldo. Delia Wallis makes such a better Tebaldo. This soprano's voice is much too small for an opera of this scope.My recommendation? You might want to think about this performance, but definitely go for the Giulini version with Domingo, Caballe, Raimondi, Verrett, and Milnes."
skimid | New York, NY | 01/17/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Watching this production on DVD is bittersweet only because you realize that to have seen it in the Met live must have been one of those rare and exceptional performances everyone wishes they experienced. The singing and acting of all of the principal singers is superlative, with top billing going to Freni, Bumbry, Ghiaurov and Domingo. The strength, drama and beauty of Freni's portrayal as Elisabetta here in the duets, arias and in the auto da fe is not to be missed. She is well paired with Domingo who gives a equally exceptional singing and dramatic performance. The strength of the other cast members, orchestra, the direction of James Levine and the chorus all enhance this performance.I wish the DVD had more bonus features and had more detailed chapter selection so that you are able to maneuver through the DVD to specific parts of any Act but these are only minor drawbacks given the overall strong performance. If you find that you are listening to only one or two CDs of the full audio recording of this opera at any given time, you will have quite a different experience to this DVD. Once it goes into your DVD player, you will be mesmerized from start to finish and find yourself applauding and yelling "Bravi!" along with the audience in the end. A worthwhile investment for any music lover."
A Truly Magnificent Don Carlo!
David | North Carolina, USA | 09/28/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Don Carlo is perhaps Verdi's finest opera, and it is a work that has gained increased favor of late. This NY Met production under James Levine offers a feast for the eyes and ears. Domingo and Freni are in top form as Don Carlo and Elizabeth, and the other singers are equally impressive.The production is brimming with real emotion and the performers manage to bring Verdi's complex characters to life. This is the Italian version and it includes the often omitted Fontainebleau scene which opens the opera. The Fontainebleau scene is not mere filler as it not only contains some truly beautiful music, but it also enables us to witness the first meeting of Don Carlo and Elizabeth-- making what follows later all the more poignant. The scenes and costumes are all splendid, but it is the singing and acting that make this Don Carlo truly stand out. Although at times the picture quality is not always crisp and clear in some of the darker scenes, my enjoyment and enthusiasm for this DVD were in no way diminished. This is opera at its finest and I imagine it will be a long time before another Don Carlo supersedes this one on DVD."