<<< << -- 4 -- Robert Hugill HIGHLY INTELLIGENT
The Auto de fe scene was dominated by the gilt façade of the cathedral, but the left hand side of the stage displayed a curtained off area with a huge projection of Christ's face. This meant that Hyntner had rather less room to play with than was desirable so that the comings and goings were a little confused, but all was revealed at the end of the scene when the lighting changed, and behind the curtains were revealed the pyres with the heretics burning vividly and realistically.
Philip's study was a huge plain black space enlivened simply with a table and a prie-dieu in front of a huge monstrance. This seemed entirely apt for the King's character.
The final scene reverted to the interior of the Monastery; there was no final spiriting off of Don Carlos by the monk (Robert Lloyd). Instead Don Carlo died in Elizabeth's arms whilst Lloyd intoned.
A big virtue of the production was the way that scenes flowed into each other, with no waiting around. This created good dramatic momentum in what is a long opera, even after Verdi's surgery. But Hyntner was rather more than a traffic policeman, and he created a thoughtful and insightful evening. Verdi's opera started out as a French grand opera and this still shows even after his revisions. Hyntner made you forget that the plot often creaks and groans, and helped you concentrate on character interaction.
Don Carlo may not be Verdi's greatest opera, but when well performed it comes pretty close. This was not the evening of ultimate Verdi singing that the audience at Covent Garden seemed to convince themselves it was. But it was highly intelligent, immensely involving and a thought-provoking night in the theatre. I look forward to the production's revival.
Copyright © 6 July 2008
Robert Hugill, London UK
THE ROYAL OPERA, COVENT GARDEN