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The historical Carlo was not bothered by Protestant suffering. In Schiller and Verdi he develops a noble involvement with Spain's underdogs, following the example of his bosom friend, Rodrigo, Marquis of Posa, who is selfless to the point of making sure Philip intercepts letters he has written to William of Orange declaring himself Elizabeth's lover and stirrer of rebellion in the Netherlands. Not surprisingly this seals his fate in a magnificent operatic coup de fusil [watch -- 'Che parli tu di morte?' (Act 3 Scene 2), DVD 2 chapter 12, 0:00-1:40]. Some consider the end of the opera an insult both to Schiller and history. Indeed it hardly matters whether there steps out of the machine Charles V (long since dead), his ghost, or a suddenly authoritative monk. Verdi gave him music, 'despite the small liking I have for this half-fantastic character'.

Andrea Silverstrelli at the end of Act 4. DVD screenshot © 1994 RAI/EMI Records Ltd
Andrea Silverstrelli at the end of Act 4. DVD screenshot © 1994 RAI/EMI Records Ltd

The chief glory of this 1992 production from La Scala is Zeffirelli's staging. For once a master hand can be sensed not only in the original groupings but in the subtlety with which the television cameras have been deployed. In a word, superlative gifts are unreservedly at Verdi's service. The same cannot be said for Riccardo Muti, who needs to ponder anew the precision of Verdi's metronome marks and acknowledge that the wily old Italian knew his business as thoroughly as any composer in the history of opera. Visually, then, so much is awe-inspiringly right; musically, despite an outstanding cast and orchestra on top form, there are too many jolts for comfort.

Copyright © 9 October 2005 Robert Anderson, London UK


Franco Zeffirelli's production of Verdi 'Don Carlo'

5 99442 9 Two DVD-9 discs NTSC 4:3 Linear PCM Stereo, DTS 5.1 Surround, Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround NEW RELEASE 182' 1994 RAI/EMI Records Ltd, 2004 EMI Records Ltd

Luciano Pavarotti, Don Carlo; Samuel Ramey, Filippo II; Daniela Dessì, Elisabetta di Valois; Paolo Coni, Rodrigo, Marchese di Posa; Luciana D'Intino, La Principessa Eboli; Alexander Anisimov, Il Grande Inquisitore; Andrea Silverstrelli, Un frate; Orchestra e Coro del Teatro alla Scala, Milano; Riccardo Muti, conductor; Franco Zeffirelli, stage production and video director

Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901): Don Carlo, opera in four acts with libretto by François-Joseph Méry and Camille du Locle; Italian translation by Achille de Lauzières and Angelo Zanardini, recorded live at La Scala, Milan, December 1992


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