This is a highly professional, sometimes outstanding production of one of Verdi's greatest operas. With lavish staging by Franco Zeffirelli and distinguished performances by Luciano Pavarotti (Don Carlo) and Samuel Ramey ... more »(King Philip), as well as the La Scala Orchestra and Chorus, under Riccardo Muti, it can be recommended as the best available DVD edition of the four-act version that Verdi prepared in response to complaints about the production expense and the length (nearly four hours) of his five-act original. The hard choice for a prospective owner is between the four-act and the five-act versions. Riccardo Muti, like most conductors today, omits the first act, set in the forest of Fontainebleau, in which Don Carlo meets and falls in love with the French Princess Elisabeth, who was his fiancée but instead, tragically, becomes his stepmother. This is a serious omission of thematically powerful material, and James Levine and the Metropolitan Opera include it, beautifully produced, in their all-star video with Placido Domingo in the title role. --Joe McLellan« less
operamaryc | DIAMOND BAR, CA United States | 08/13/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I still prefer The Met production with Domingo, however, I bought this for Sam Ramey's performance as King and certainly wasn't disappointed! He was great! Dessi was a pleasant surprise as Elizabetta! Enjoyed her performance very much! Pav is much better than usual, thinner and more animated. It was well known that his voice cracked on a high note during one of the performances of this run without anyone mentioning the thousands he has hit and, of course, the audience booed. If it was during this one, they fixed with dubbing. Why any major stars put up with the audience behavior at La Scala and Muti's tantrums is still a mystery. The only weak voice was Cano's as Rodrigo - too much vibrato for my taste but his acting was acceptable. Sets were grand if somewhat lifeless. The costumes were beautiful but somewhat colorless which gave the whole effect a dark and somber look. The minor characters were well sung and the orchestra sometimes too loud but colored nicely and chorus sounded just fine. Enjoyed it as a different version when I'm tire of watching The Met and the French verson from the Chatelet in Paris. Both of which I rank above this one. A definite good buy if Pav and Dessi fan and a "must have" if you love Ramey! I look forward to sharing it with friends who haven't seen it and consider it a worth addition to the collection."
Gorgeous production with some weak singing
M Souza | San Francisco, CA USA | 08/10/2004
(2 out of 5 stars)
"This is a grand, gorgeous, sweeping Franco Zeffirelli production from LaScala. Unfortunately, only one or two of the singers live up to it. Luciano Pavarotti (Don Carlo) doesn't let us down vocally, but he doesn'tconnect with the role or with the other singers. He is a throwback to the"stand and sing" singers of the past, and barely makes an impression. He lacks the passion that should be the cornerstone of this role. As Elisabetta, Daniela Dessi's voice is not in good shape. It sounds hollowand dry, and she is unable to comfortably sustain some of the long phrases. She lacks the majesty and grandeur this role needs. She acts very well for the camera and looks beautiful, if occasionally sour. Luciana d'Intino is an Eboli-lite, though the voice is a beautiful instrument. She is good dramatically, as is almost everyone, save Pavarotti. Vocally, the Rodrigo (Paolo Coni) falls a few notches below the other voices in quality, which spoils the duet with Carlo, with the King, and his own death scene. For a young man, he sounds unsteady: listen to the "Dio che dell'alma infondere,"duet, where, against Pavarotti's rock-steady voice, his seems to lap in waves against it, or the last note of the "Per me giunto," where it wavers out of control. As Filippo, Samuel Ramey sings magnificently and phrases royally. His scene with the Grand Inquisitor is splendid, because it is acted and sung with total conviction by both singers. The Grand Inquisitor is Alexander Anisimov, has the requisite high notes for this scene, but his low note in "Sire" is not cavernous enough for my taste. Nevertheless, he is thrilling. Nuccia Focile makes a good impression as the "Heavenly Voice." Riccardo Muti's conducting is better in the big concertati, where his strict beat keeps the chorus and orchestra together as one, than in the individual scenes, where he is likely to go either too slow, or too fast for the comfort of the singers. But nothing he does seems really wrong, and the sounds he gets in the grand scenes are exhilarating. The production is grand, rich, and detailed as are most of Zeffirelli's productions. The picture is good, the lighting is atmospheric, and sufficiently bright, so one doesn't lose any details, and can revel in the beauty of the mise-en-scene. If you care about the edition, this seems to be the standard Italian 4-act version."
Lots of gorgeous Zeffirelli bling-bling
E. A. Lovitt | Gladwin, MI USA | 05/08/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I imagined Franco Zeffirelli must have jumped for joy when he learned he was going to stage his very own auto-da-fé. Lots of jeweled crosses, gold reliquaries, and other religious bling-bling. His lavish, gargantuan sets tend to shift the atmosphere of the opera to its religious-political meaning, somewhat muting the romantic tragedies that take place between four of the five principals (I'm not counting the relationship between Rodrigo and Don Carlo as romantic). Another thing that weakens the romance angle is the exclusion of the Fontainebleu scene. This "Don Carlo" is performed in its 1884 Italian four-act version.
Well, there's a third reason why the romance doesn't really come through. Luciano Pavarotti's Don Carlo seems grumpy rather than lovelorn. He absentmindedly calls Elisabetta (the passion of his life), 'Isabella' at least twice. However, he is vocally in top form. The opening-night cracked note, which made international headlines in 1992 is not in this recording. As always, the other principals rotate around a stationary Pavarotti like lesser moons around a greater moon.
As Elisabetta, Daniela Dessi makes a decent impression, although she is not as regal a queen as was Mirella Freni in the 1982 Metropolitan Opera recording. Someone must have told her that they were looking for a drama queen rather than a Spanish queen. Actually that worked out quite well in the Act IV study scene when Elisabetta confronts her monstrously paranoid husband. Dessi's voice was pleasant, although a bit threadbare at its top.
Luciana d'Intino began very tentatively with the 'Veil Song.' Princess Eboli's guaranteed show-stopper garnered only a bit of polite applause from the La Scala audience. She did begin to warm to her job later in the midnight garden, although her confession to the queen in Act IV fell dramatically flat. Once she was alone in Phillip's study and well-launched into "O don fatale," her voice opened up quite beautifully.
Paolo Conti as Rodrigo acted his critical duets with Don Carlo and the King very well, but his voice weakened and sharped as the evening drew on. His vibrato seemed very open and unsteady for such a young singer.
Of course, the real reason I bought this La Scala recording was for Samuel Ramey's King Phillip. He is in magnificent voice, almost too virile for an ageing king. The Act IV study scene with Ramey's grieving "Ella giammai m'amo" has few equals. His confrontation with the Grand Inquisitor is Verdi at his finest--two iron men in velvet voices clashing on the fate of the Empire, with the orchestra growling and moaning in the pit.
And speaking of the orchestra, Riccardo Muti's conducted some breathtaking allegros, especially at the beginning of the first and second scenes of the second act (the Queen's garden scene and the auto-da-fé scene). Otherwise it was a very balanced, sonorous evening in the pit. "
Grand night at the Opera
Robert Petersen | Durban, South Africa | 08/22/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A magnificant production of Don Carlo. Muti uses the 4 Act Italian version. The principals perform well, and the staging is outstanding. I have enjoyed the performance as a whole and recommend it highly."
Read 'em all before you buy
figaro | Eugene, OR United States | 01/14/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"If you are looking for just one all-around great dvd of Don Carlo, this may not be the exact thing for you, from a dramatic or visual standpoint. It's a very good recording as to the singing aspects. Pavarotti sings very nicely. He has a nice ringing edge to the voice which gives the impression of drama, but at the same time he has a lyric feel - I really enjoy listening to him here. Dessi is a great Italian soprano. This is a good role for her. People are often looking for a rich voice and sometimes count out a singer like Dessi for dramatic roles but hers is a timeless Italian sound - the voice has a bit of a hard edge to it but it is still pretty; it is not a fat voice but neither is it thin; her technique is excellent. She sounds a bit similar to the great German soprano Gundula Janowitz in the famous live recording with Corelli. Her acting is nice and she looks good. Only a couple times I wished for a little more freedom from her on the high notes. Dessi's middle and lower registers are great. Ramey sounds great and the baritone and the mezzo do their jobs nicely both delivering some lovely moments.
The big negative is this: all three of the men, Pavarotti, Croft, and Ramey sing lovely but with hardly a hint of emotion, so I am not really playing this one very much anymore.
One more note on Pavarotti: I enjoy his singing very much, but even in phrasing he is more lacking in passion in this recording than he usually is, (which is a shame since Don Carlo is such a passionate character). This is a recording made from the infamous run at La Scala where during one of the performances he cracked and was booed. Pavarotti said he basically was unprepared and allowed the voice to drop in uncertainty. You can sense his lack of confidence in this whole recording when comparing to some of the other roles he was more comfortable with.
Just to make a small correction from another review: When Pavarotti calls 'Elisabetta'(Italian) 'Isabella'(both Italian and Spanish), he is perfectly following the libretto. The story is Spanish but the libretto is Italian translated from French. The names 'Isabel' and 'Elizabeth' have branched off from early versions of the name and they both mean 'consecrated one'. The names are used interchangeably in the libretto. All Don Carlo-es (pural) sing it the same way, interchanging the names as the libretto dictates."