First of all, I must preface this by expressing my very great disapproval of FathomEvents’ new preshow. Bouncing graphics on that large of a screen is bad for the inner ear, it drove my mother out of the movie theater for a full ten minutes, and it meant we didn’t get to see all the normal placards with information about the singers, which is extremely useful for those of us who aren’t experts on the modern opera world(if they must take up our time, do it earlier. You’re sure to have us anyway; you have to get to the theater an hour in advance to get even decent seats). Fortunately this time around I’d seen half the cast already in other broadcasts. (The cinema we were at displayed some incompetence with the lights as well, but that’s another story)
In the Medina version of Don Carlo, which is in use at most places outside France and Italy, the Met included, one actually gets a glimpse of Verdi’s evolution as a composer, as the first act is translated from the original French Don Carlo he did when he was young, and its weaknesses can be seen, especially in contrast to the other four acts written when he was old, where the music is darkly gorgeous, and one’s ability to suspend disbelief isn’t stretched beyond normal, though you do have to keep a close watch to keep from getting confused.
Nonetheless the first act is good backstory to have, particularly for Elizabeth; seeing her at the beginning, one can feel how sad her story really is, and Marina Poplavskaya acting ability helps. Though of course the real reason the first act is included is for the title character to have a proper aria, and for us to begin with his vocal talents. And when you’ve got Roberto Alagna in the lead role, that is a good thing indeed. With or without his arias, noone sings agony like that guy. Apparently it’s not a normal role for him, probably because it’s not in French(the one time he did it before it was the French version), but I’m glad they’ve got it on film then. He’s quite charming and funny in the backstage interview too, and they also showed him practicing the fight choreography during the intermission, during which is showed away.
Also singing a role he’s probably not used to was Simon Keenlyside as Rodrigo, though he pulled it off. On the other hand Ferruccio Furlanetto has apparently owned the role of King Philip, and it showed in both the performance and in his interview, where he even managed to rise above Deborah Voigt asking extremely inane questions with his insightfulness. This when it’s not easy to sympathize with the King, and while the audience certainly doesn’t have to, the poor singer does, so I’m glad he did.
Returning to the inane questions, I think it’s very telling that Voigt’s best interview was the promotional one conducted with her co-star in La Fanciulla del West, which included her asking him what the best part of the role was for him, and him promptly kissing her. With six important singers, they were limited to interviewing four of them plus the conductor, and it was a good thing most of them gave good interview, because their hostess really was of no help. I want Renee Fleming back.
The biggest thing I noticed about the production itself was the colour scheme. From the start it was mostly in black, with Elizabeth first appearing in beige, then symbolically getting donned in black like everyone else, with the use of red to stand for the Church(the church walls in the second act, The King and Elizabeth during the auto de fe, the Grand Inquisitor). It also might have been my imagination, but I think the camera was up close with the singers a lot more than it had been with the past.