Verdi’s “Don Carlos” Live from Opera de Paris

Verdi’s “Don Carlos” Live from Opera de Paris,

Thurs, Oct 19th 5pm.

All-star cast: Four modern operatic greats: Kaufmann, Yoncheva, Garanca and Abdrazakov.

At least five operas have been based on Friedrich Schiller’s great drama, “Don Carlos”, (which delighted us theatregoers in Dublin about five years ago) and all pale in comparison with Verdi’s great work. Denis Forman awards it an Alpha-Plus, one of only thirteen he gives out in his survey of the greatest operas ever composed. Forman states: – “Carlos” is perhaps Verdi’s finest opera  … the grip of the narrative holds us in a way that is rare in Verdi. … For richness, depth and sheer enjoyability the score of “Carlos” is a phenomenon … the stupendous choral climaxes to Acts 1 and 3 … “Carlos” is the grandest of grand operas and an Alpha-Plus through and through”.

High praise, indeed, but, as an opera lover who came relatively late to an awareness of the glories of this magnificent work (it needs a great production, a fine orchestra and great singers – things lacking in some of the earlier productions I attended), Forman’s praise is fully justified – I well remember a glorious production we had at SGC about six years ago which gave me one of my most thrilling operatic experiences. (A 1958 Covent Garden production costumed and designed by Luchino Visconti is a landmark in this opera’s production history)

Don Carlos

Of the superb quartet of soloists I’ve already listed, I look forward in particular to hearing again Sonya Yoncheva, who we had not so long ago as a thrilling Norma in that ferociously taxing role (it has been called the Hamlet role for sopranos) – maybe comparing hers to Callas’s immortal interpretation of the Druidic Priestess would be pushing it too far, but it was a sheer delight. So, along with the other soloists named above, Verdi’s arias and ensembles should be heard at their marvellous best.

“Don Carlos”, the composer’s twenty-fifth opera, premiered at the Paris Opera on March 11th, 1867, and had a difficult birth involving cuts, rewrites, a long rehearsal period (six months) with the composer walking out of rehearsals at one stage. Although the opera was a success right from the opening night, it went on to be one of the most revised of all operas – but it has long been recognised as one of the genres greatest jewels.

Don Carlos

This beautiful, tumultuous opera is based on real flesh and blood people. Set in France and Spain c1560, it tells of Don Carlos, son of Phillip the 2nd of Spain (he who married Queen Mary of England), who is in love with Elizabeth, his stepmother. They meet and declare their love for each other. A jealous Princes Eboli tells all to the king and all heaven breaks loose (one of Con Houlihan’s gems!) … and on it goes in one of the most Shakespearean of all operas.

“Don Carlos” has to be in my top ten all-time operas; it can provide a sensational night of theatre. Thanks to Eugene and all at SGC, we’re having unforgettable opera productions (e.g. the recent Covent Garden “Magic Flute”) to savour. If you love opera, you will miss it at your peril – it could be one of the musical events of the year. (Please note the early starting time.) (Jim Ryan).