LA Opera Review: Don Carlo - Placido Domingo

Viva Verdi -- Viva LA Opera! Don Carlo is the avid music buff’s “must see” opera. Lauded as one of the best operas ever written by Giuseppe Verdi, said to be the greatest and most popular opera composer of the nineteenth century. Verdi was part of the movement who used music as a political tool to express ideals of freedom and equality. We see this in the character of Rodrigo, Marquis of Posa; a passionate, untiring advocate of justice and freedom amid the tyranny of the Spanish Inquisition. The characters in Don Carlo represent the Verdi essence of understanding the human condition in all its strength and weaknesses. Placido Domingo, the world’s greatest living opera singer, James Conlon conducting, and the entire talented cast, chorus and orchestra deliver the genius of Verdi on Opening Night at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilon. Domingo, as the baritone Rodrigo, Marquis of Posa is spectacular with tenor Ramon Vargas (Don Carlo) singing two magnificent arias with a masterful show of bravura in the prison scene. The musical highlight is the beloved duet “Dio, che nell’alm infondere”. A fantastic performance by mezzo-soprano Anna Smirnova, making her LA Opera debut, plays the role of Princess Eboli with vigor -- she flirts her way around the court amusing and delighting the audience. Soprano Ana Martinez performs the role of Elisabeth de Valois with brilliance. Ferruccio Furlanetto one of the foremost Italian basses of his generation, reprises the role of King Philip II. Libretto by Joseph Mery and Camille du Locle is performed in the four-act Italian version of the score, which does not include the opening sequence in the five-act French version of 1867. Instead, the plot picks up ten years after Don Carlo and Elisabeth de Valois fall in love in the forest of Fontainebleau. Louisa Muller makes her company debut as stage director with bold religious choices. At 51 years of age, Verdi was enjoying the life of a wealthy gentleman farmer and said he would never write another opera. That changed when in 1865 the Paris Opera offered Verdi a commission for a new opera. The source of his plot was the historical dramatic play Don Carlos by Friedrich Schiller. Don Carlo is loosely based on historical figures of the time. The setting is the court of Philip II of Spain, a Catholic, in conflict with his son -- not only over the fate of the Flemish who are Protestants about to face the horrors of the Inquisition, but discovers his son is in love with his wife whom he recently married for political reasons. Philip has to make the heart wrenching decision to arrest his son who will face death as penalty for treason. A traumatic pivotal scene is a display of unbelievable loyalty by Rodigo, when he takes his own life to save that of Don Carlo’s. Don Carlo is an opera filled with human pain and suffering. After several revisions of the opera, this 4-act version’s ending is as mysterious as Verdi was. Performance dates from September 29th through October 14th, 2018. Tickets can be purchased at: https://www.laopera.org/

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