<< -- 6 -- Roderic Dunnett VERGING ON LONDON STANDARDS
Stowe's Don Carlo was in many respects -- like Dorset's recent
Salvator Rosa -- well up to Glasgow, Leeds, and arguably Cardiff and
Don Carlo went through various metamorphoses. Already one of Verdi's
mature operas (Paris, 1867), it reached London the same year, New York a
decade later and belatedly, La Scala in 1884, improved and newly revised
when Otello was already on the stocks; at which point the original
Act I, the hunting scene near Fontainebleau, was finally jettisoned by Verdi.
King and chorus in the Stowe Opera 2002 production of 'Don Carlo'. Photo © 2002 John Credland
Thus Stowe's version, based on Verdi's later thoughts, opened with the
monastery scene, with Carlo, the recalcitrant grandson of Charles V, now
living secretively as a monk in the monastery of St Yuste.
Here the monastery pervaded all, for Stowe's set, its pink, brown and
grey stone a dead ringer for The Lion in Winter (crossed with Liverpool's
Anglican Cathedral), and well enough designed by director Sarah Chew, dominated
the entire action -- notably a horizontal set of steps whose varied levels
were creatively employed. Aided by intelligent gradations in yellow-white
lighting (presumably from Ian McKillop's technical team) this ominous, lowering
presence set the tone for a highly charged drama whose battlements (not
least when Philip or the Grand Inquisitor breached them) felt as ominous
as Dunsinane or Elsinore.
Copyright © 1 December 2002
Roderic Dunnett, Coventry, UK