University of Hartford "H" Magazine - Winter 2019

University of Hartford

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Sunday Afternoon at the Opera - Verdi: Don Carlo

05/19/2019 1:00 pm
05/19/2019 4:30 pm


Sunday Afternoon at the Opera host Keith Brown writes:

This opera is Giuseppe Verdi's answer to the music dramas of Wagner. As Verdi originally wrote it in 1867 it was planned as the grandest of French romantic grand operas, surpassing the works of Spontini and Meyerbeer in that line: five full acts plus ballet music. Verdi was forced to scale it down for subsequent performance outside Paris. The four-act Italian language version of 1884 has a discography going back to the LP era.

The story of the opera is taken from the German poet Friedrich Schiller's drama of political intrigue and national aspiration. Don Carlo has been the vehicle for many operatic stars. Superstar tenor Placido Domingo took on the title role, with the reigning diva of the day, soprano Monserrat Caballe as Elizabeth of Valois. EMI recorded the Italian version in 1971 with Carlo Maria Giulini conducting the musical resources of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. That Angel issue on digitally remastered vinyl discs went over the air on Sunday, September 28, 1986. Then along came another Don Carlo from the Royal Swedish Opera House production of the 1999-2000 season. That Naxos CD release I broadcast on Sunday, May 23, 2004. In the early twenty first century Sony Classical issued on compact disc an exclusive series "The Metropolitan Opera" derived from airtapes of Met radio broadcasts in the Met's audio archives. On Sunday, November 4, 2012 I drew upon that series with a now historic Met broadcast of Don Carlo from March 7, 1964. Franco Corelli starred as the Don, opposite Leonie Rysanek as Elizabeth. Kurt Adler directed the Met's orchestra and chorus. All those Don Carlo recordings are to be found in our WWUH classical music record library.

There's yet another historic recording of Don Carlo in our library that goes back to the LP era. It's on four British Decca/London stereo discs from 1966 and captures for posterity a different Don Carlo production from that bygone era at Covent Garden, conducted by Georg Solti. Carlo Bergonzi is the Don and that great Italian diva of the 1950's and '60's, Renata Tebaldi, is Elizabeth. Other great voices of the era were in the cast: the Bulgarian bass Nicolai Ghiaurov, the German baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and the American mezzo Grace Bumbry. I have coordinated my broadcast this Sunday of this vintage vinyl Don Carlo so as to echo the staged production of the Verdi masterpiece by Connecticut Lyric Opera under the direction of Adrian Sylveen, given in four performances, May 10, 11, 17 and 26. Today's radio presentation gives the Italian language version in five, not four acts, minus the ballet music but restoring some of Verdi's cuts to the score.