Don Carlo at Wiener Staatsoper

The Italian
and French version, both equally interesting for their individuality, were
offered simultaneously this season. While the subject of Schillerís Don
had previously been suggested to Verdi, he initially rejected it as a
possibility, probably because German literature was frowned upon prior to the
Italian unification in 1861. By 1865, he reconsidered the subject, setting it
first in French. Verdi decided to add two scenes to the original drama,
however, to enhance its marketability: the scene between Philip and Posa, and
the scene between the Grand Inquisitor and Philip. By 1866, Verdi arrived in
Paris with the completed opera, and began rehearsals at the OpÈra de

Don Carlos received its Italian premiËre in 1868 alongside Boitoís
Mefistofele, but was not immediately successful. Albeit unsuccessful, Verdi
revised the opera in an Italian version, which subsequently premiËred in
1884. Interestingly, his revisions were to the French version, and so an
authentic ìItalian versionî does not exist; it is merely an Italian
translation of the revised French version. The Staatsoperís simultaneous
production of both versions in one season is intriguing and noteworthy.

Marco Armiliato steadily began the Italian version with a nicely
interpreted and dramatic presentation of the Overture. The solemn
introduction by four horns precedes the off-stage chorus and funeral dirge
for Charles V. Janusz Monarcha sang the incantations of the Monk with clear
and well-shaped lines, and a strong burnished sound. His timbre and eloquent
legato combined to produce an ominous presence. He explains that Charles V
was guilty of pride and folly. Kneeling, the chorus sings ìCarlo, il sommo
Imperatore,î to the sensitive and well-balanced support of the

Marco-Armiliato.pngMarco Armiliato

Tenor, Franco Farinaís entrance left much to be desired. His orange-hued
voice was large enough and suitable to the Verdian repertoire, however his
lack of attention to the phrasing and shaping of his lines left his
performance longing for beauty. Almost abrupt, his singing was heavy in the
upper tessitura and rather than create squillo through good technique, his
attempt at creating the Italianante sound of a true affogato generated more
yelling than anything. Dramatic, however, in his scena of sorrow and anguish
at losing Elisabetta, Farina displayed a passionate fervour.

Thomas Hampsonís Rodrigo was, for the most part, well performed if not
over-sung in a few sections. Hampsonís voice sounds best when it is not
forced, but the label of a ëVerdian Baritoneí seems to demand a specific
colour for him. Such labels are often not beneficial to singers. Rather than
sing freely in their natural voice, it insinuates a manifestation of a sound
that is rather pesante or pressato in order to sing these roles. Posa enters
and is greeted by Carlo. He immediately launches into a description of the
battle at Flanders, to which Carlo responds with his declaration of
friendship. Their ensuing duet was memorable and well sung, except for a few
sections in which Farinaís upper-register became too forced to remain
sensitive to Hampsonís rounded lines. A beautiful orchestral fabric
supported the final section of the duet, the cabaletta ìDio che nellíalma
infondere,î sung shoulder to shoulder in well-effected thirds. Hampsonís
Italian was well pronounced, although some Americanisms were obvious.
Farinaís inability to blend rendered this energetic moment was still
accepted by the audience, but not overly. Verdiís melodramatic talent
shines through as a procession passes by Carlo and Posa, who join in the
chanting of the monks before a thrilling reprise of their cabaletta.

Thomas Hampson

Scene II brought a new stage setting, with large pillars and metal gates.
The costumes for this production were traditional and ornate in royal hues.
The female chorus, Elisabettaís ladies-in-waiting, were not allowed in the
monastery and amused themselves outside. Their singing, ìOtto ai folti,
immensi abetiî was well balanced and sung with accurate diction, and
enthusiasm. Eboli, portrayed by mezzo-soprano Luciana DíIntino, sings her
famous Veil Song, ìNel giardin del bello,î a two-stanza song with
refrain. DíIntinoís voice is a more than noteworthy instrument, and her
diction was offered with a strong accento puro. I will go so far as to
promote that DíIntino will belong to the realm of great Italian mezzos like
Simionato, Cossotto, and Barbieri. It is truly the voice a Verdian mezzo,
unfettered. If a criticism is necessary, it is that the registers of her
voice are not yet even, as is typically the technical issue with mezzos of
this type, and at times it sounded like three separate singers. Ms.
DíIntinoís chest register is tremendous, and deliciously rugged; even
awesomely affective, however her middle-register was far removed from her
chest timbre, generating a notable break in the voice. For a mezzo, her head
register is also quite impressive, though she has to lighten the tone quite a
lot to achieve it. Regardless, this singer is one to note for a bright
future, especially for her dramatic and lovely presence. Her fioritura and
ability to sing pianissimo was quite impressive.

Luciana-D%27Intino.pngLuciana DíIntino

A disconsolate Elisabetta appears, portrayed by Soprano Norma Fantini,
followed by Posa. He hands the Queen a letter from her mother in which a
letter from Don Carlo is secretly hidden. Elisabetta reads the letter while
Posa converses with Eboli. Since Posa has brought the letter, Elisabetta
believes she can trust Posa. Unfortunately, the conversation between Eboli
and Posa was not impressive and displayed the inconsistencies in Ms.
DíIntinoís registers. Her attempt to mix timbres with Hampson was almost
disturbing because she brought her chest register extremely high in her
range. Hampson breaks into his cantabile romanza, ìCarlo chíe il sol il
nostro amore,î in which he explains how Carlo was rejected by his father
and requests an interview with his new ìmother.î In a fine display of
artistry, Hampson is sensitive and dramatic in his explanation. Elisabetta
agrees to meet with Carlo, and Eboli and Posa leave.

Norma-Fantini.pngNorma Fantini

The duet between Farina and Norma Fantini was moving. While Fantiniís
voice has lovely prospects, the tone is often hollow. It is not the most
attractive of tones, but her attention to language allowed for an interesting
portrayal. The orchestra, in this section, was slightly overbearing, but
Armiliato quickly regained balance. Farina gave some of his nicest singing in
this scene, although Ms. Fantiniís acting left the scene lacking in
realism. In one of Verdiís attempts to match musical progress to spoken
dialogue, he gives up his conventional four-movement form and allows the duet
to move, instead, through a series of dialogues. Carlo asks Elisabetta to
intercede on his behalf with Philip, who will not allow him to leave for
Flanders. Elisabeth agrees; no sooner, Carlo loses himself and pours out his
affections for her. As the scene ends, Elisabetta rejects Carloís advances,
telling him that he can only gain her love by killing his own father. The
scene lacked in passionate interplay since Farina was unconvincing in his
passionate gestures. Although his best singing was not met by dramatic
expression, the scene was successful because of Ms. Fantiniís acting.

Philipís arrival was dramatic and electrifying for RenÈ Papeís bold
basso, ricco díenergia. His voice is well-balanced, even throughout, with
the loveliest spinning lines, and seamless application. Angry that Elisabetta
has been left alone, he orders her lady-in-waiting back to France. Elisabeth
bids the Countess farewell, although Ms. Fantiniís tone became rather nasal
in this section and her diction was unclear. Her romanza did not generate
warm applause. Philip, left alone, asks for Posa to remain in his company.

Hampson recounts Posaís devoted soldierly life in a lovely moment of
musicality and sensitivity, after which Philip stresses a need for political
control to curb Posaís idealism. In this scene, Papeís vocal prowess was
captivating. It was one of the eveningís most vocally and dramatically
well-presented moments. Verdi pins the voices, dramatically, by allowing them
to represent contrasting idioms; then, he unites them by the end. Papeís
warnings, ìBeware the Inquisitor,î were not only vocally impressive, but
also physically affective as Verdi attaches massive solemn chords to increase
the emotional value of the scene. His dramatic understanding of Philip
allowed us to gaze at his character from different angles and see contrasting
parts of his personality. Papeís portrayal of Philip is a multidimensional
sensation. As he confides in Posa, about his troubled feelings, Posa brings
Philipís character to a new level of interest. In this production, Pape
stood high above his colleagues in terms of vocal production, and most
certainly dramatic understanding.

The final duet is interesting in terms of form. Initially, Verdi had used
his consistent four-part formula, but the revision brought a complete
abandoning of this form. Instead, he replaces it with a fluid dialogue of the
type he would use later in Otello. Whether his adjustment had anything to do
with the non-conventional Mefistofele that premiËred simultaneously, is
intriguing and noteworthy.

Act II began with a set change, dominated by a hazy sun surrounded by the
mist of disconcertedness. Philipís coronation is to occur the following
day. An offstage chorus sings to the accompaniment of castanets. The chorus,
here, was accurate and impressive with their diction, as well as their
dramatic presence. Elisabetta appears with Eboli, and since the Queen is
weary of the ensuing celebrations, she decides to exchange masks with Eboli.
As Elisabeth leaves, Eboli sings a small solo that recalls the central
section of the ìVeil Song.î Unfortunately, the scene between Ms. Fantini,
and Ms. DíIntino was vocally unimpressive. In Don Carlo, Verdi requires the
female relationship to be as profound as the one between Philip and Posa, yet
the relationship between Eboli and Elisabetta did not attain equal

In the following scene, Carlo enters reading a letter he thinks is from
Elisabetta. The scene follows the conventional four-movement format; however,
it suffered because of Farinaís lack of vocal control. His Italian is
excellent, but his phrasing for this moment in Carloís character required
more intense shaping. Eboli appears and Carlo breaks into declarations of
love, thinking that she is Elisabeth. The duet between Farina and DíIntino
was not pleasant. Her voice, in constant fluctuation, used an almost forced
chest register, and paired with Farinaís heavy singing, made the scene
vocally uninteresting. Once identities are revealed, Eboli realizes that
Carlo loves the queen.

Hampson enters as Posa and initiates the trio ìAl mio furor sfuggite
invano.î The trio brought some of the best singing of the evening. Verdi
sets the baritone and mezzoís agitated rhythms against the tenorís long
impassioned melody; however, Farina failed to effect a legato significant
enough to create this effect. Carlo restrains Posa from killing Eboli, after
which she intones furious curses on Carlo. Ms. DíIntinoís chest register
shone here and she demonstrated the full extent of her powerful instrument
purely and dramatically. Her lower register is impressive. As she rushed
away, Hampson and Farina were left to end the scene offering each other
declarations of trust. Farina, again, forced the voice in the upper register
and failed to match Hampsonís more lyrical and spinning quality. The scene
ended, however, with much applause and support of the singers.

The final scene of Act II brought the grandiose. A large, regal unity
planted itself onstage for the crowning of Philip. Filled with pomp and
supported by the magnificent tonal palate of Maestro Armiliato and his
orchestra, the stage filled with a significant chorus and a full procession,
complete with crucifixes. Wheeled out and placed center stage, three massive
crucifixes stood erect with suffering heretics attached to them. Elisabetta
enters, with an elegant and regal red gown, to illuminate the entrance of the
King. Kudos to the staging director of the production and the costume
director, for effecting the necessary pomp that this scene requires. It was a
large dramatic visual event, as well as musical.

Much of the musical bearing of this scene is attributed to Mr. Pape, who
was exquisite in his commentary. Six Flemish deputies, escorted by Carlo,
confront Philip. They kneel before the King and lead into a grand concertato
movement in which all the principle voices join. Farina used even more force
in his upper register as did Ms. Fantini, allowing for a somewhat harsh
sound, rather than the more sublime block of sound that Verdi might have
required. Farina approaches as Carlo, asking to be sent to Flanders. His
volume, never lower than an f throughout, added to Farinaís conversational
moments, lacking finesse. In a significant vocal moment, Philip refuses
Carloís pleas, upon which Carlo draws his sword. Posa steps forward and
demands Carlo to surrender. Hampson was brilliant in this scene and added to
the dramatic inflection initiated by Pape. Carlo relinquishes his weapon and
Pape, in a most brilliant tone, announces Posa as a Duke. The scene closes
with a splendid orchestral and choral sequence, juxtaposed with a voice from
heaven that speaks of future bliss. The tremendous applause offered to Pape
on his bow was significant and showed this audience to be aurally and
visually intelligent.

Act III began with a heartfelt cello solo that stirred the soul,
eloquently played by the principle cellist. Philip, alone in his study,
begins his soliloquy, ìElla giammai míamo,î in which Pape surpassed any
of the singing he had presented earlier. He took command of his character and
suddenly a thrilling and affective pathos sizzled through the air of the
Staatsoper, touching everyone. Papeís phrasing was sensitive and the beauty
of his voice was touching, in and of itself. Not one phrase was without shape
and his extensive use of messa di voce, especially for a lower fach, was
exquisite. A luscious spin and impeccable diction capped this most
spectacular performance of the evening. His sotto voce to end Philipís
aria, was chilling and imbued the most profound pathos possible. The applause
and yelps of ìBravoî continued for two minutes afterward, stopping the

Rene-Pape.pngRenÈ Pape

The following scene brought the Grand Inquisitor, portrayed by Stefan
Koc·n, into duet with Philip. Koc·nís voice was interesting, because it
seemed very light or high in timbre for a bass, although that is often the
case with voices that are deep. The overtones often pick up and make the
sound different when it travels through a large space. Nevertheless, Koc·n
had good rapport with PapË in this scene. The orchestral palate was
exquisitely controlled by Maestro Armiliato, especially as Verdi places his
concentration on the low strings, ostinato rhythms, restricted pitches, and
sets the stage for the power struggle between the two basses. Philipp asks
what to do with Carlo, but Verdi uses free declamation, allowing the
Inquisitor to take control of the scene. The Inquisitor tells him that Posa
is the more serious threat. Papeís and Koc·nís artistry led the scene to
an excited fervour, as the Inquisitor threatens Philip with a possible

Stefan-Kocan.pngStefan Koc·n

Elizabeth enters the next scene, which is conventionally structured,
announcing the theft of her jewellery case. Ms. Fantiniís dramatic
abilities were strong, although her singing rather throaty and heavy. Her
singing in the higher tessitura was somewhat strident, and although squillo
is necessary, here it lacked a certain fullness and roundness. Maestro
Armiliato and his orchestra were brilliant in this section, where his
sensitivity to the dialogue was delightful. Pape enters with intensity and
produces the jewellery case, finding the picture of Carlo in it, planted by
Eboli. Philipp accuses Elisabetta of adultery. Papeís furiousness and
dramatic prowess led Ms. Fantini in her portrayal. Philip summons Posa and
Eboli, who enter and join in the four-part ensemble, ìAh! si maledetto,
sospetto fatale.î At first dominated by Philip, whose gradual statements
lead into a lyrical section, his melody should weave with Posaís decision
to take action, and Eboliís remorseful statements. Unfortunately, the
quartet lacked because of Ms. DíIntinoís inconsistent register switching
and Ms. Fantiniís forceful singing that created some flat tones in the
upper tessitura. Pape and Hampson remained consistent throughout.

Philip and Posa leave Eboli and Elisabetta alone. A sudden infusion of
chromaticism surrounds Eboliís confession. Ms. DíIntinoís singing here
was quite exquisite, and her register changes far less abrupt. Upon her
confession, Elisabetta orders her to leave the court. Upon her departure,
Eboli sings ìO Don Fatale,î in which she laments her fatal beauty in
conventional major-minor fluctuations. Ms. DíIntinoís singing was well
blended here, immensely dramatic with well-presented inflection, and
phrasing. Her attention to detail and the mixing of her registers made this
quite exquisite. In the major section, she bids farewell to the Queen with a
sensitivity that affected the audience into a grand gesture of appreciation
for Ms. DíIntino.

The final scene of Act III brings Posa to Carlo, where Posa bids farewell
to him in an old-fashioned romanza. Hampsonís singing was lovely and
lyrical, with good attention to diction. He warranted the significant
applause of the audience. A shot rings out and wounds Posa. Farinaís acting
here was rather removed from Hampsonís strong attempts to create pathos and
convincing agony. Again, Farinaís singing was heavy, and forced. Posa
reveals to Carlo that Elisabeth awaits him at the monastery and subsequently
delivers a second romanza before dying.

Grand orchestral sweeps commence Act IV. The accuracy and the terrific
palate of colours possessed by the Wiener Philharmonic were evident. Ms.
Fantini enters as Elizabeth, who unfortunately was less interesting in this
final act. Her aria, ìTu che la vanit‡î was competently sung, although
she did not do much more to enhance Verdiís writing. There was much similar
inflection throughout. Her high tessitura was markedly strident and the
audience recognized the contrasts of this cast, bidding her well with
lukewarm applause. It should be mentioned, however, that Ms. Fantini has a
lovely sotto voce, that was even fuller and warm in its application than her
regular singing, possibly suggesting a more lyric application for her. While
Valois is a difficult role, vocally, it also rests on dramatic prowess, and
unfortunately, Ms. Fantini did not impress pathos for her character upon this

The final scene has Carlo and Elisabetta in a moment of metaphysical love,
where earthly love is renounced for love in the afterlife. Farinaís singing
ìMa lass˘ ci vedremo,î was not impressive vocally, but dramatic. It
should be an ethereal type of cabaletta similar to the closing of Aida, in
its restraint. Maestro Armiliato created such an effect with his delicate
orchestral fabric. Suddenly, Philip bursts in. Pape, illuminated and
dramatic, attempts to offer his son to the Inquisitor, but Carlo runs to the
temple of Charles V. The tomb opens as a Monk appears, wearing a crown and
mantle. He gathers Carlo to him and brings him into the cloister.

Unquestionably, RenÈ Pape led this production with vocal prowess and
dramatic intention, along with Thomas Hampson and Stefan Koc·n. Ms.
DíIntino should also be commended for her impressive mezzo instrument and
honesty as Eboli. Ms. Fantini and Mr. Farina were the weaker of the
performers, and the audience of the Staatsoper responded to these
appropriately. Overall, it was an interesting and exciting visual production
with some glimmering vocal moments. Verdi was born of the Bel Canto
tradition, which is why singers, who attempt any other style of singing other
than what is purely Italianante in style, will fail in his operas, where
those like Pape, who remain faithful to the school of lyrical, legato, and
purely understandable diction, will prevail.

Mary-Lou Patricia Vetere

image_description=Franco Farina
product_title=Giuseppe Verdi: Don Carlo [Italian version]
product_by=Philip II (RenÈ Pape), Don Carlo (Franco Farina), Rodrigo, Marquis de Posa (Thomas Hampson), The Grand Inquisitor (Stefan Koc·n), A Monk (Carlo V) (Janusz Monarcha), Elizabetta da Valois (Norma Fantini), Principessa Eboli (Luciana DíIntino), Tebaldo, a page (Laura Tatulescu), The Count of Lema/ A Herald (Gergely NÈmeti), A Voice from Heaven (Simina Ivan), Flemish Deputies: Hannes Lichtenberger, Wolfgang Equiluz, Hacik Bayvertian, Hiro Ljichi, Gerhard Panzenbˆck, Mario Steller, Hermann Thyringer and Miachael Kuchar. Chor der Wiener Staatsoper, Orchester der Wiener Staatsoper, Marco Armiliato (cond.).
product_id=Above: Franco Farina