On March 26th, 2022 the Metropolitan Opera (The Met) presented Guiseppe Verdi’s Don Carlos as part of its’ Live in HD series.
This was the last performance this season of the opera at The Met, and is the first time it has been presented by The Met in its original French version.
The performance starred Matthew Polenzani (Don Carlos), Sonya Yoncheva (Elisabeth), Eric Owens (King Philippe II), Etienne Dupuis (Rodrigue), Jamie Barton (Princess Eboli) and John Relyea (The Grand Inquisitor.)
The production is directed by David McVicar with sets by Charles Edwards, and costumes by Brigitte Reiffenstuel. Maestro Patrick Furrer conducted the performance, substituting for Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin.
The sets are very simple. A couple stone walls, much like catacombs, are moved into different positions to provide different scenes worked well. In my opinion the set worked well – focusing everyone – singers and audience – on the actions on the stage and not focusing on the location of that the action was taking place in. It may not have been a lavish looking set, but I did not find it distracting in the least either, something that I find with many ‘non-traditional’ stagings of operas.
The only part of the direction that I found was a weak point was the auto-da-fé scene. Mr. McVicar added a court jester to the scene which I found added nothing to the story, was distracting, and contradicted the seriousness of the scene. Also, there was no actual burning of heretics.
The singers were a stand out in the performance:
Matthew Polenzoni sang a sympathetic Don Carlos – a man who responded to the situation at the moment, and who wouldn’t assert himself until after the death of his friend Rodrigue.
Sonya Yoncheva was a young Elisabeth – willing to accept a marriage to a man she didn’t love in order to maintain the peace, but in love with someone else. She was torn between reality and her desire.
Eric Owen’s King Philippe was an aging ruler who was unwilling to accept the required changes that had to come yet who loved his son. His Philippe was also 100% under the control of John Relyea’s heartless Grand Inquisitor – a man using his position to control the lives of everyone around him through pure fear. His authority is finally bent by the same person who is supporting the system that gave the King his power.
Etienne Dupuis’ Rodrique was loyal to his friend Don Carlos, and to Flanders. Yet he was politically astute and knew how to ‘play the game’ in order to make time to try and help the people of Flanders.
Jamie Barton’s Eboli was sympathetic and carrying – she loved Don Carlos and seemed generally sorry for her betrayal of Elisabeth and Don Carlos.
The supporting cast were also amazing, especially:
Meigui Zhang who sang a young and innocent Thibault with great warmth and humility. This was the first time I have heard Ms. Zhang in a role, and I hope she has a long and successful career – she has a very lyrical voice and is a wonderful actress. I hope to see and hear her in more roles, and larger roles, in the coming years.
Matthew Rose as the Monk/the ghost of King Charles – a small role but sung with passion and intensity. He is another singer I hope to see and hear of more in future years.
The orchestra, under the baton of Mastro Furrer, did a wonderful job with Verdi’s music. They supported the singers throughout the entire opera. The tempo chosen by Maestro Furrer fit the singers and was not rushed or too slow. The music seemed to flow at a good pace from beginning to end.
All-in-all this was a wonderful performance and despite being almost five hours, the time just through by – and I was sad to see the performance come to an end.
If you get the chance to go to an Encore performance in the cinema, go see it.
I hope this productions gets released on DVD.