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"The singing and conducting of this performance are of generally fine quality, but there are also the hard to ignore, mercilessly ugly sets and costumes that seriously interfere with a full enjoyment of the production. Never have I seen such monochromatic, frankly unimaginative, dull and repetitive colors for costumes along with merely cheap flats here masquerading as intimidating marble walls. If the designer's intention was to reproduce the famous if morbid hall of caskets of that time, he might have noticed the lurid colors of the original and spared us these cheap-looking, boringly gray, junior high school stage equivalents. The stage director of this production was similarly uninspired, apparently instructing the marvelous tenor Rolando Villazon to picture himself at the center of some sort of James Dean fantasy, replete with neurotic tics, head holding, and a recurrent tendency to fall to ground in fits of overacting. The singers and conductor deserved better in a DVD version. This production is best enjoyed, I'd argue, by pretending it's a radio broadcast, and thus turning away from the screen and listening to the singers and conducting only. What is presented to the eyes is just another instance of Eurotrash masquerading as quality."
A beautiful and original production.
T. C. | 10/25/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I liked every minute of this production. Director Willy Decker decision to place all the occurrences of the opera in the Pantheon de los Reyes at the Filippo II's Escorial is interesting and effective. Maybe those interested only in old-fashioned conservative Zeffirelli like productions should avoid it...
Villazon is excellent. I liked Urmana as Eboli. Robert Lloyd is a great singer, but his voice now is obviously lacking something of its impact in relation to what it used to be. Dwayne Croft is good as Posa, and Jaakko Ryhänen is outstanding as the Grande inquisitor. I don't think that Amanda Roocroft is a true Verdi soprano, and in part of her performance she sounded as if the voice was pushed to its upper limit. But she was very good in the last act. The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, though not a regular opera orchestra, plays magnificently for Riccardo Chailly.
All in all, a very worthwhile performance for one of the greatest of all operas! "
Decent recording - terrible sets and costumes
figaro | Eugene, OR United States | 02/16/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Lloyd and Villazon are the winners here. Lloyd occasionally sounded a little distant, particularly at the beginning of the big aria 'Ella giammai m'amo'', but it seemed to me that he was placed to far back in the stage and would have sounded better a little closer up. Otherwise, he was a delight. His acting was wonderful.
Villazon was almost perfect. I enjoyed his acting, perhaps even along with the stage direction. He protrayed Don Carlo as a much weaker individual than the hero is generally protrayed and really, that seems to be the nature of the original real personality of Don Carlo. I found his acting realistic and very involved and his singing both beautiful and impassioned.
Urmana was very good as Eboli, the one thing missing being the frightening chest voice you often hear in this role. She has a solid chest voice, just not as exciting as one could wish for. However, at the end of 'O Don Fatale', her high notes were so big and free, it was quite thrilling. You could tell the audience felt the same way, so it made up for any lack in the lower range. Also she seemed very committed to the role from a dramatic standpoint.
Dwayne Croft - very pleasant singing and decent acting. 'Nuff said there.
The Grand Inquisitor - quite acceptable.
Amanda Roocroft - the worst cast of the principles. She sounded terribly pushed at the top. However 'Tu che le vanita' came off quite nicely. Her acting was very good.
The sets: Fake marble mausoleum-like. Very nice if it were for one scene or so, like maybe as the two church scenes. But the same backdrop is used for every scene, making no sense whatsoever.
The costumes: The worst - all in a puritanical dark grey or light grey. These are Spanish nobles and they are Catholic. I felt like I was watching a story about Quakers. Although they did take the felty-marbly-grey material and sew them into something like sixteenth-century fashion. So the felty material did not hang appropriately and everyone had a huge rear end with Don Carlo appearing to wear a diaper. Also, Amanda Roocroft, who is a young-looking, slim woman, looked fat (big felty butt) and old (dark and ugly makeup covering her pretty face)."
Uneven performances; disappointing ending; still worth seein
Toni Bernhard | Davis, CA United States | 09/26/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This production is the four-act version of "Don Carlo" revised by Verdi in 1884. I must first admit that I prefer Verdi's original five-act version. When the original Act I is omitted, as it is here, we miss the one moment of happiness for Don Carlo and Elisabetta. In addition, too much background regarding the subsequent action is omitted - references are lost (e.g. Elisabetta's reference to Fontainebleau during her great last act aria) and the characters' motivations aren't always clear. But it is common to use Verdi's revised four-act version, so we must look at it on its own terms.
I was looking forward to seeing Rolando Villazon as Don Carlo. As expected, his singing is superb. His voice is crisp and expressive, and he pays such careful attention to phrasing that every piece sounds fresh and new. But I was disappointed in Villazon's interpretation of the title character. I thought he took the same approach to Don Carlo that he did to Alfredo in the 2005 Salzburg production of "La Traviata" (hard to believe, the two characters being so utterly different in temperament and circumstance). But in both operas, Villazon's onstage demeanor is that of an immature and crazed adolescent, flailing around too much. I was hoping for a more nuanced performance from him as the troubled but complex Don Carlo. That said, the DVD is worth seeing just to hear Villazon sing.
Amanda Roocroft, who was so sparkling as Fiordiligi in the Theatre du Chatalet's 1992 DVD of Mozart's "Cosi Fan Tutte," struggles hard to meet the demands of Elisabetta. This role doesn't require the performer to be a "dramatic soprano" as is the case with many Verdi roles (Aida, for example); but the voice required for Elisabetta is heavier than that of a strictly "lyric soprano." The word "spinto" is often used for this "in between" quality of voice ("spinto" meaning "pushed" in Italian), but of course, the skill is to "push" without sounding pushed. The voice must naturally sound lyrical but with considerable heft to it. Roocroft's attempts to meet the vocal requirements of the role sound harsh and strained throughout, especially when in the upper register. Perhaps she was having an off night (I don't know if the production was filmed over several nights or not).
Violetta Urmana as Eboli was a disappointment. Not only does she not act the part of a femme fatale, she and the chorus are downright clunky in the Veil Song. With its flowing Castilian sound, this melodic piece should come as a breath of fresh air after the doom and gloom of the previous scenes (and of most of the subsequent ones!). Urmana fares better in O Don Fatale, as if she finally just lets her deep chest voice relax and show its stuff.
The person who appears most at ease in his role is Dwayne Croft as Rodrigo. He has a beautiful lyrical baritone voice. His duets with Villazon are the highlight of the production. Robert Lloyd does a fine job as Philip II, even though, as others have noted, his voice has lost some of its power.
Lastly, I was disappointed by the directorial choice to make Don Carlo's fate clear at the end. Irresolution is one of the themes of this opera from beginning to end. It's what Verdi and his librettist intended and I prefer that it be left that way."
Dr. J. J. Kregarman | Denver, Colorado United States | 01/24/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I delayed watching this DVD because of the mixed reviews it has received. I should not have. This DVD has quite a bit going for it. Firstly Chailly's conducting is superb and the very sound of his orchestra is outstanding. Secondly the production in effect translates the opera into a two act affair with disk one playing nonstop through Act 2, scene 2 and disk two doing the same for the rest of the opera. This works quite well for home viewing. Thirdly the acting, singing, and movement all highlight the drama and tensions of this opera and keep one involved with what is going on with the characters. I was particularly impressed with Villazon, Croft, and Lloyd in this regard. Needless to say I am quite happy to see Carlo played as an anguished adolescent. And the sets and costumes? Well they don't get in the way of the drama. Is this THE Don Carlo? I will not say. Is it an exciting night at the opera? Definitely."