Don Carlos

Giuseppe Verdi
Welsh National Opera
Mayflower, Southampton
(2005)

Production photo

Don Carlos inspired Verdi to create his most powerful and grandiose musical tragedy, a work which gripped a very full house at the Southampton Mayflower. They were drawn by a strong Welsh National Opera company featuring Paul Charles Clarke in the title role and Nuccia Focile as the Princess Elisabeth.

Southampton was treated to the full size, five-act French version which takes the onlooker from the forest of Fontainebleu to the monastery of St Just, and the tomb of Carlos's grandfather.

Conductor Carlo Rizzi and his orchestra were in particularly splendid form, thrilling the house with the brilliant setting of a grim tale of intruige based on Schiller's Don Carlos, Infant Von Spanien.

The cruel Phillip II is well sung in this production by Andrea Silvestrelli, though due to indisposition he was unable to complete the final Act V, the role being taken over by Jonathan May, earlier one of the Flemish Deputies.

Of all Verdi's works, this must be the most intensely dramatic, with its heavy concentration on characters and their intrigues, rather than the story. Johan Engel's settings, notable for the striking opening scene of the Forest of Fontainebleau, are almost incidental to the dramatic performances of the singers.

Much of the story concerns the machinations of the Church - a world clearly close to Verdi's heart, though the clergy do not emerge from proceedings with much credit, least of all the Grand Inquisitor for whom the experienced veteran Daniel Sumegi was in splendid voice.

At the curtain, however, it is Charles Clarke and Focile who win the ovations.

This performance is to be repeated at 5.30 pm on Saturday, 10th December at Liverpool Empire.

Reviewer: Kevin Catchpole

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