Alex asks: On the Verdi Enjoyability Scale of 1-10, with Forza being a 1 and Traviata being a 10, where does Don Carlo fall?
Well, tonight was the much anticipated (at least in this household of 1) season premiere of Don Carlo at the Met. After the particularly kick-ass preview we got from Pape and Hvorostovsky at the Volpe Gala last May, I had sort of expected an evening unending baritonal splendor.
The thing I sort of forgot is that the vast majority of the first 3 acts of Don Carlo are sort of a drag. Notable exceptions on this particular evening were Borodina's ever so slightly uneven but well packaged "Nei giardin" in Act 2 and the Act 3 scene 1 trio for Carlo, Rodrigo, and Eboli (virus).
Speaking of Borodina...I am really crazy about her. The love affair started with her Amneris last season, was confirmed with her Dalila, and was further solidified with her Laura in this season's Gioconda. That said...something was up tonight with her Eboli. Perhaps it's because she was singing a role with a name that is the perfect hybrid of a famous & fatal virus and a famous & fatal bacteria. Or maybe she was just having an off night. Her upper register was really strained and lost most of the immeasurable richness and solidity she has so unfailingly in the middle and lower part of her range. I know the top is there--I've heard it. Anyway, no love lost, clearly.
Johan Botha's Carlo got off to a shaky start with a surprisingly wimpy "lo la vidi" but got slowly stronger as the evening progressed. What he lacks in stage presence and acting prowess he makes up for with bright, powerful top notes and a marvelous display of vocal stamina. And a mullet to beat all...
Good ol' Pat Racette was in fine form tonight--her solid performance culminating in a sensitive and agile "Tu che le vanitá". It's hard to know what to say about her. Her voice has harsh edges, but she's just so darn reliable. And in a world of Heppners, Giordanis, and Gallardo Domas-es, that reliability is REALLY valued.
Dmitri Hvorostovsky had moments of brilliance, but spent much of the evening covering his sound in a way that made it come off a bit muffled and smaller than I remembered. His "Per me giunto" in Act 4 (of 37), however, was thrilling and received a lengthy, enthusiastic and much deserved ovation. Also, I decided I think Hvorostovsky looks like this caricature of Peter Gallagher.
Opera Hot Rene Pape remains an absolute genius. His resonances make my entire body vibrate. I don't even know what else to say. He absolutely does not disappoint. His "Ella giammai m'amò" at the top of act 4 was when the evening finally got off the ground. And it was worth the wait. Judging by the screaming around me at the aria's end (including a very nice older gentleman who was quietly saying "yaaaaay")--the crowd was in agreement that it was worth the wait.
So, this isn't my favorite Verdi. And it wasn't the constant magic for which I had hoped. But, in this production, the good bits are really, really good. Definitely don't miss it.
PS: A, I am overall giving Don Carlo a very solid 6.
Update: Maury more elegantly details the "DON CARLO truly begins in act 4" phenomenon.