French Don Carlos: Same Five Hours of Doom and Gloom
|The unit set -- photo @ Ken Howard|
Hardcore opera fans know that Verdi's Don Carlo was actually the five-act French opera Don Carlos. For a variety of reasons, this opera has usually been presented in an Italian translation. The raison d'etre for David McVicar's new production was that Yannick Nézet-Séguin was presenting the opera in its original French for the first time at the Met.
|McVicar's set, photo @ Ken Howard|
|Yoncheva and Polenzani|
The blocking and acting were basic and unremarkable-- this is a very stand and sing opera. McVicar only strays from the "typical" Don Carlos at the very end -- instead of Charles V pulling Carlos into the monastery, Carlos is killed and is reunited in the afterlife with Rodrigue. The curtain comes down on them, uh, consummating their relationship. I just don't hear sex in the music at that moment. It was a disappointing new production.
The casting was competent without being transporting. Matthew Polenzani (Carlos) sang the long and somewhat thankless title role with his dependable and tasteful style. His voice is just not my cup of tea (I find it too nasal and narrow), but it handled the demands of the long role better than expected.
More simpatico was Sonya Yoncheva as Elisabeth. She has a naturally dignified, stately presence. Her voice has a sad, covered sound that suits the role. Her voice can develop a wobble on sustained tones, but overall she sounded better in this than she has in several years, and her fifth act aria "Toi qui sus le néant" earned a nice ovation.
|Barton and Dupuis, photo @ Ken Howard|
Etienne Dupuis (Rodrigue) was the only French-speaking singer in the cast. Rodrigue has the opera's best music -- the big "bromance" melody with Carlos in the duet and the death scene aria. Don't think I've ever seen a baritone fail at this role, and Dupuis was no exception. A few quibbles: he made no attempt to sing the trills written in the score. I remember how well Dmitri Hvorostovsky used to trill in this music. Dupuis also started to run out of steam in the long death scene aria. But he looked nice in leather boots, and the sound is pleasant and, as I said, the role is fool-proof.
|Owens and Relyea, photo @ Ken Howard|
|Polenzani, Barton and Dupuis, photo @ Ken Howard|
Overall, this production made a decent but not overwhelming case for presenting the opera in French. I have no doubt the French libretto makes more sense to those who speak French, but for those who don't this seemed like the same opera. It's long, sober and needs a great tenor, soprano, baritone, bass, and mezzo. This production had good voices, but not great voices.
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