Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

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All dressed up and nowhere to go

June 11, 2008

Yvonne Naef as Princess Eboli and Tamar Iveri and Elisabetta
Photo : A. Poupeney/Opéra national de Paris 2008
It seems Verdi’s Don Carlo is sweeping Europe this summer with a major new production in London and revivals in both Paris and Vienna. All of them have more than a few big name cast members to recommend them and Ferruccio Furlanetto will actually appear in two. On paper, the Paris revival may have the least to recommend it. This became more pronounced when arguably the biggest star in the cast Dimitri Hvorostovsky called in sick for the second performance on Tuesday. Funny thing was, at least vocally, his absence didn’t detract that much from the overall vocal quality of the evening. This was in part because his replacement, Dimitris Tiliakos, was superb. He may not have Mr. Hvorostovsky’s fame, but he is very talented and a young face to keep an eye on. To date, this Greek baritone has worked mostly in Nuremberg and Greece and appears to be casting a wider net. Apparently no matter where he goes he is hunky. The other factor that elevated this evening was the rest of the cast, which had no slouches amongst them. James Morris sang Philip II with real pathos and weariness. Tamar Iveri, making her Paris debut on the heals of her Met debut this spring in La Clemenza di Tito recently seems to be everywhere. She made Elisabeth’s less-outwardly flamboyant role stand out over Eboli, not always an easy task. Yvonne Naef had that job and, though she didn’t quite have the control needed for the homestretch of “Nel giardin del bello," she was otherwise solid and came off much better in Act III. Another new element for me was tenor Stefano Secco as Don Carlo. He has worked extensively throughout Italy and more recently Germany and now appears to be Paris’ it-tenor for all kinds of things. He’s excellent, and, although his U.S. appearances have been limited, here’s hoping he makes it onto some bigger stages stateside soon.

Sounds like a great evening. Well, yes, but unfortunately opera must always contend with those pesky non-vocal elements. The conductor was up and coming Greek talent Teodor Currentzis who has been working steadily throughout Russia over the last few years. He wasn’t lazy, but I felt he didn’t quite get all that could he could have gotten out of the Paris National Opera Orchestra. A somewhat ironic state considering how the British press have tried to work him up as some kind of genius enfant terrible. Everything seemed kind of half-spirited though technically on-target. But more annoying than this, was the revived Graham Vick staging that is so minimal it begins to beg the question of whether or not it is a staging at all. Think of putting an opera on in a Rothko painting or an empty, abandoned Pottery Barn to get the idea. There is so little to do and Vick has everyone so spread out on the huge Bastille stage that it becomes one cold and lonely Verdi opera. In the end it was frustrating that such a strong cast had so little to work with, but there are worse options. And there is one striking image at the very end as Carlo dives into his father's crypt, represented here by a cross-shaped pit in the center of the stage. Carlo's dead body rises out of the crypt atop a giant glowing cross as the curtain falls. It's just too bad the audience had to wait nearly four hours to get something really interesting to look at.

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Thanks for this superb review! I really wanted to know how Dimitri Tiliakos did in this Don Carlos. And i m glad you liked him.

Here you can find a video of Dimitri singing COnte di Luna

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