Sunday, 21 February 2016

Giuseppe Verdi, Don Carlo - Semperoper Dresden

Performance 18th February

The first performance of the revival of Verdi's masterpiece at the Semperoper showed that Verdi definitely was the giant genius of Italian opera during the second half of the 19th century. One famous tune after another and in between sheer dramatic tension. Don Carlo is surely one of his greatest works and quite a difficult one to cast appropriately. You need 5 top protagonists and several other smaller supporting characters that manage the musically and theatrically demanding roles. The Production led by Eike Gramms (who passed away last year) created a production that centres around the questions of human relation and still also impresses with great staging and beautiful costumes (both by Gottfried Pilz). A huge wall (some sort of shelf) filled with skulls that acts as wall and floor throughout the evening shows from the very beginning that this whole story will not finish with a happy end. Impressively they use the different levels of the stage to creat space and position the protagonists and the choir.
Musically the performance was as least as impressive as optically. Paolo Arrivabeni jumped in for Myung-Whun Chung who was ill. Arrivabeni showed great Italian passion and great controll over the orchestra during the whole performance. The Sächsische Staatskapelle Dresden did a wonderful job following his instructions and played so ravishingly and passionately that also the orchestral parts were a real pleasure to hear. The two choirs (Sächsischer Staatsopernchor and Sinfoniechor Dresden e.V.) also gave a marvelous performance and gave me chills especially during the finale of the second act (not to mention the monks at the very beginning).
Peter Lobert as the Monk did not have much to sing during the evening but his two appearances (at least vocally twice) were great with a reverential dark voice that is able to deliver shivery respect.
Michael Eder was an evil grand inquisitor through and through. His low and heavy bass sounded really viciously and he managed to increase the intensity of his main appearance during the third act gradually before leaving with a nasty "forse!".
The role of Filipo II was sung by René Pape who still convinces with a such a powerful and dark voice that seems not to age at all. After decades he still a reliable force of nature when it comes to great bass roles. He totally convinced again with a great voices and impeccable acting skills.
Another great performance of the evening was done by Christoph Pohl as Rodrigo. Already having a very powerful and nice sounding entrance he managed to gradually raise up the level of his performance. By the end one was sadder about Pohl not singing anything anymore than Rodrigo dying for his friend. His youthful heroic voice with the beautiful timbre was definitely a highlight of the evening.
My personal highlight of the evening however was Ekaterina Gubanova as Eboli. A role that really calls for a force of nature with a huge range, great power and ideally a good-looking exterior. Gubanova unified all these things in her performance. Her Eboli was powerful, sexy and did not have a problem with the vocal range of the role. Her final aria was immense and earned her a huge wave of applause.
Also Barbara Haveman was able to impress the audience in the role of Elisabetta di Valois. Not just gifted with a big voice that can fill the whole theatre hers was also equipped with a very intimate timbre that depicted the sufferings of her character very appropriately. Her big aria in the final act was a real gem and was rewarded with a storm of enthusiasm.
The title role was sung by Massimo Giordano who has a very interesting voice. Apart from sounding very natural generally his voice tends to have somewhat of a sighing sound. I do not know if this was part of his interpretation, anyway, I did enjoy his portrayal due to the power and the lightness of his voice even though some of the higher notes seemed not really comfortable. However he did a pretty good job in this role and portrayed it really well.
Alltogether I really enjoyed the whole performance and liked every minute of it. I was actually thinking about getting a ticket for another performance to see it again. Who knows. However I would give 9 stars to this great performance I already saw.
Reviewed by Daniel Url

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