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Posts Tagged ‘Verdi’s Don Carlo’

I have reread everything I’ve written about Don Carlos here in order to avoid repeating myself, but the fact is: I cannot. So I’ll sum it up: it is an opera that does not work by itself; it requires, therefore, a dream team (including stage director, orchestra and conductor) to develop its uniquely dark and oppressing atmosphere; this dream team never exists, even in legendary recordings, but opera houses should not accept this as inevitable and understand that it is something special (as in “if you see it as routine, better give up”). Now let’s speak of this evening’s performance.

Although I am very much surprised by Asher Fisch’s pulse, alertness and tension-building – he should try all of that in Wagner and R. Strauss – tiny miscalculations undermined too many key moments. First he seemed partial to a big orchestral sound, but then he seemed to believe that clarity and rich strings were incompatible until he finally seemed to have decided that his cast would prefer lower dynamics.  Act V – we had the Italian 5-act versions – was basically a misfire in terms of conducting. When you have the Bavarian State Orchestra, you have everything you need to transport the audience to the overwhelming massiveness of San Jerónimo de Yuste in time for Elisabetta’s aria. Today, the strings had the ideal roundness of sound, but that basically did not build up in intensity. Then the poor soprano had to tackle the famously dangerous intervals of the aria without the “orchestral cushion” that would envelope her sound to form the ideal blend of a single musical statement. Her pleas to have her tears reported in heaven received a sprightly accompaniment that made one think of Amelia Boccanegra enjoying patrician life in the shores of Genova. Nothing compares to the closing of the opera – the ghost of Charles V appears, Amelia is terrified and then… then when I realized, it was over. One could barely notice that! If a conductor does not find it cataclysmic that the ghost of a dead emperor raise from the tomb to rescue his grandson from the hands of one of the most powerful monarchs of the earth and a gruesome fanatical religious leader, then what again is he doing there? If I cannot put across my meaning, just grab any of Karajan’s recordings to hear what I am talking about.

When it comes to staging, I have already accepted that all contemporary productions of Don Carlos look exactly the same: simplified historical costumes, minimalistic and monochromatic sets turning around the idea of a cross and no Personenregie to speak of. I find it all so petty and cheap and banal that my very soul craves to see Agnes Baltsa looking and moving racée as hell in her impossibly wrought dress in the gigantesque sets of the Grosses Festspielhaus. Of course, I would like to move on, but directors have not helped me so far. In any case, I would like to give Jürgen Rose the benefit of the doubt. This production was premiered in 2000 and this is the first time I see it. I once had a conversation with a stage director specialized in opera who was candid enough to say that he often had to deal with famous singers not willing to learn the concept and basically wanting to know where they enter from and exit through. This seems to be an accurate description of this performance: the body language of practically every soloist was wrong (nobody bowed to the king and queen, he often had to pick objects on the ground himself, Rodrigo demanded Carlo a sword he already had taken from him, Rodrigo does not kneel to be knighted, touching ladies during conversation seem to be standard practice etc), blocking was nonsensical and chaotic and there were many embarrassing moments where singers just stopped and looked around in a “what now?”-attitude. This would have not worked in a performance of Carmen or La Bohème for tourists, let alone in a difficult Schiller-adaptation of a story involving historical, philosophical, political and religious issues.

Anja Harteros is the exception to the stage awkwardness – she has an innate ability to portray aristocratic characters, moving with great dignity, doing beautiful, meaningful gestures and responding to the dramatic situations of the plot. Of course, real direction would have made her even more compelling, but in terms of theatre, she was this evening a beacon in the darkness. To make things better, she sang famously too. This is a role that poses her no difficulties and, if she is still not the most Italianate of sopranos, she has clearly made a serious effort in that direction. If you think that nobody else sings this so beautifully and interestingly as she does these days, that’s a win-win situation. The other German singer in the cast, René Pape, has also made a serious exercising in Italianizing himself. I find this performance a complete improvement in terms of style since I last saw him in this role in the Schiller-Theater in Berlin. He was in superb and commanding voice – and I cannot think of someone better equipped for this part today – and yet he still sounds a bit calculating and not truly trusting the power of Verdi’s melodic imagination in his big aria. In this sense, the only Italian in the cast, young baritone Simone Piazzola, offered a lesson of how you infuse emotion in this repertoire essentially by the quality of vocal production. In his death scene, his control of vibrato to increase expression shows that he knows Piero Cappuccilli’s performances (as heard in many recordings with Karajan, for instance). This is a voice of the right color and range for this repertoire, but I am afraid that volume is still a bit on the light side, especially in his lower register.

Anna Smirnova is a singer I saw before she became a household name. Although her all-out approach was reckless, it was also exciting in a very raw way. Since then, she has become more self-controlled, but also less powerful, less tonally rich in her middle range –  and her diction is becoming indistinct. She could nonetheless pull out an O don fatale very easy in high notes and surprisingly close to what is written in the score.  Tenor Alfred Kim’s dependability and cleanliness of phrasing made for a not truly engaging tonal quality – grainy and slightly nasal – and lack of squillo to pierce through in his high notes. Although Don Carlos is not considered one of Verdi’s most difficult roles, it is curious how rarely one listens to a truly convincing performance from a tenor in it. Last time I saw Rafal Siwek in this opera, he was Filippo – here he is back to the usual casting as the Inquisitor, where the sheer size of his voice is an undeniable asset, even if he is not truly vehement or frightening in it.

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I have a long story with Marco Arturo Marelli’s producion of Verdi’s Don Carlo: I’ve seen the première in the Deutsche Oper and a reprise with a different cast last year. It must be said that serious rethinking has been done and I could say that third time’s a charm: not only does it look better within the New National Theatre’s higher proscenium arch, but also many important adjustments have been done, especially in the auto-da-fé scene. In any case, if the really superior blocking and acting is the result of Spielleiter Yasuko Sawada’s work, then she truly deserves compliments. Another improvement over the Berlin performances is Pietro Rizzo’s conducting. The Tokyo Philharmonic orchestra played with unusual animation and richness of tone, only occasionally lapsing into the customary bureaucracy. Maestro Rizzo did a very good job in balancing the need to accommodate a largely light-voiced cast and Verdi’s demands of a rich orchestral sound. He rightly opted for forward-moving tempi and theatrical effects. This was indeed one of the best performances in the New National Theatre in the recent years.

Serena Farnocchia’s lyric soprano is two sizes smaller than the role of Elisabetta and, if she sang elegantly and musicianly, she often seemed to be saving steam for her big moments. Once in the final act, she thew caution to the winds and offered an exciting account both of her aria and the ensuing duet. Sonia Ganassi too is hardly the dramatic mezzo soprano one usually finds as Eboli. Although her voice had a bleached out sound in its higher reaches, she husbanded her resources most intelligently and offered a dramatically compelling and vocally acceptable performance. As usual, her attention to the text makes all the difference in the world. I had never heard Spanish tenor Sergio Escobar before. It is an interesting voice without any doubt: its bright, firm sound has palpable presence in the auditorium and, when the phrase is congenial, he can provide some exciting acuti. He still needs to work on breath support, though – he is often caught short and some high-lying passages grate a bit. He has not been blessed with acting abilities and invariably looked awkward when he tried to reproduce some gesture or attitude outside his comfort zone. Markus Werba is the third singer below the right Fach for his part today. This did not prevent him from offering a convincing performance – he has solid technique, did not beef up unnecessarily his high baritone and only showed some sign of strain during the long scene with Filippo in the first act (this is the Italian 4-act version). I had seen Rafal Siwek as the Inquisitore in the Staatsoper back in 2011 and found him authoritative but lacking variety. For the role of Filippo II, the natural volume of his voice is an undeniable advantage. The slightly veiled tonal quality and a tiny hint of throatiness prevent him from providing the necessary impact in the auto-da-fé, but he proved to scale down to real Innigkeit in his act III aria. If Hidekazu Tsumaya could produce more consistent high notes, he would have been an entirely successful Inquisitore – here he sounded underpowered in many key moments.

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When the Deutsche Oper premièred Marco Arturo Marelli’s production of Don Carlo back in 2011, Anja Harteros was its selling feature and her cancelling would have made me very disappointed if it did not mean hearing Lucrezia Garcia for the first time. This evening, however, La Harteros not only did not cancel but also volunteered to cover for Barbara Frittoli next week. This has also been an opportunity to make sure that, good as Ms Garcia was, Harteros is in altogether another level. First, she can act. Second, she has a wonderful attitude for aristocratic roles. Third, she has this uniqueness only great singers have. I have often discussed with my fried Cavalier here about German singers in Italian roles – and I have often said that Anja Harteros should concentrate more on German roles, which highlight her best qualities. Although her voice still lacks that typical Italian brightness, she brings undeniable assets to the role of Elisabetta – a substantial lyric soprano with solid low notes, powerful acuti, soaring mezza voce and elegant phrasing. Experience in this repertoire has helped her to find a more authentic Verdian style – she is learning to play her chest notes, to build interpretation from atmosphere rather than word-to-word tonal coloring (“German style”) and even knowing how to utter her parole sceniche to thrill the audience in key moments. As she was in very good voice, her performance grew steadily in strength to a Tu che le vanità wide ranging in expression and a ideal rendition of the final duet.

I saw Violeta Urmana sing the role of Eboli back in 2005. Then I praised her absolute homogeneity and pondered that, if her poise was welcome, it was ultimately dull in this repertoire. But that was eight years ago – she was a mezzo with impressively easy high notes back then. Now that she is billed as a soprano, her high notes have lost the exuberance  (and homogeneity is not always there either) . I have noticed that in her Parsifal in Berlin last March and it seems that this is the moment for an engine check. Seriously. Basically, every high note sounded strained, tense and effortful this evening. O don fatale had a perilous start until the stretta, when she surprised me with a very powerful and accurate ending.  

I had never heard Russell Thomas’s name before this evening and I am still not sure of the right way to describe his performance as Carlo this evening. This American tenor has an appealing vocal quality – his voice is rich, large and dark, but irregularly supported in the middle and (especially) in his low register. He squeezed too often his high notes (especially in the beginning) and his mezza voce was often poorly focused. That said, he has very good Italian, an instinctive grasp of Verdian style and, if he was not always subtle, he was never vulgar either. He showed great sensitiveness in his final duet with Anja Harteros, shading his voice to match the German soprano’s now legendary ductility.

Dalibor Jenis was an emotional Rodrigo in his warm and vibrant baritone, in great shape this evening. The role is a little bit on the heavy side for him and he had some patches of fatigue (especially in his big scene with the king). His death scene was generously and convincingly sung.

Hans-Peter König’s Filippo is an interesting chapter in the above-mentioned “German singers in Italian roles”-debate. This Wagnerian bass has a big, solid voice, exceptionally powerful in its lower reaches, but rather clear and slightly straight in its higher reaches. Although the tonal quality is very German, his approach is legitimately Italian (his pronunciation is only occasionally very lightly accented). Because of the lack of vibrancy and darkness in exposed high notes and also of a somewhat placid temper, some key moments in the opera sounded rather discrete than imperious, but this very self-restraint helped him to build an intimate and direct Ella giammai m’amò. Albert Pesendorfer too was a powerful Inquisitor, but the low register could be a little bit more percussive. Last but not least, Tobias Kehrer was a strong and incisive Monk.

Compared to last time, Donald Runnicles performance was far more compelling this evening – the orchestral sound was consistently big and rich (what proved to be testing to some members of this cast), but he still has not learned to produce cumulative tension in this repertoire. For instance, the introduction to Elisabetta’s big aria, a moment in which a German orchestra’s beefy sound always produces the right effect, failed to develop in strength and the soprano had to create the necessary momentum basically by herself.

I have written about the production last time and I would only observe that it seems that there has been some welcome cleansing in the direction and that it had seemed somewhat more effective this evening (a better acting cast has helped that impression too).

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I would have liked to start this without repeating “Verdi’s Don Carlo” is one of the most difficult operas in the repertoire”, but again if any of you has seen a perfect performance of this opera, please let me know. Not even Georg Solti’s studio recording with Renata Tebaldi, Grace Bumbry, Carlo Bergonzi, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Nicolai Ghiaurov and Martti Talvela is considered perfect – and I bet any of my 11 or 12 (it seems that I have more readers now) would have died to see this cast live. What I mean to say is that a “disappointing” Don Carlo is the most natural thing in this world – but I still believe that it is important for opera houses to try to keep the level of disappointment low. This is not an opera that works its charm almost per se (such as Carmen or Le Nozze di Figaro) – if creative minds are not making it work, it just does not work. This evening, for example, it did not. If I were paid to do what I do, I would probably ask my publisher to get me a ticket to another performance, for this one was – and anyone who has worked with theatre knows what I am talking about – one of those evenings when the “energy’ is just not there. I say this because I would perfectly believe in anyone who said “you know what, Saturday it was actually good”. I wouldn’t believe, though, if this person told me that it was “great”.

To start with, Marco Arturo Marelli’s new production is new because it has never been done before, but it has no freshness about it. Although he says that his concept turns around people whose lives are made so unlivable because of religious oppression that death is very much present as a satisfying “option”, his approach is essentially “decorative” – the sets are quite elegant in their concrete-like blocks constantly rearranged while preserving the outline of a cross… and the lighting is quite efficient. There are some isolated ideas: there are no soldiers here and priests do themselves the dirty work, the voce dal cielo is a just an ordinary woman soon to be sent to the stake; Charles V appears as the grim reaper in the last scene. But don’t expect much filling in the blanks: the stage direction is extremely conventional: stand-and-deliver is the less annoying problem here. In the first scene, Elisabetta could have stepped on Don Carlo, for she “doesn’t notice him” lying on the floor 30 cm from where she is standing; Rodrigo is shot to death but other than scratching his belly to produce artificial blood that never actually appeared, stood quite upright there singing as if he had all the time of the world until he drops dead to the ground from one second to the other; the Great Inquisitor finds it really ok to sit on the bed the Queen had just slept in (by bed I mean a mattress with cushions and duvet bought at KadeWe). The auto-da-fé is particularly confusing: although the production is stylized, ladies still have big dresses, guys have their swords with them etc. So it’s supposed to be “once upon a time” – but when Philip II says that Spain was doing really well then, I have to believe him, for common people carry a rich supply of printed books with them. Actually, the auto-da-fé has to do with burning books, lots of them, the priests confiscate them themselves among the crowd, who are allowed free access to the Queen, to the King and to the Infante. To be more specific, while these very literate people in dirty rags are being harassed and tortured by the priests a few centimeters from the royal family (no gentry invited), they sing “The day of rejoicing has dawned, all honor to the greatest of Kings! The peoples have confidence in him, the world is prostrate at his feet” – curiously, they first sing this to Carlo (who is not the king – but you could say “they consider him to be his king” – why? this is a good question). Then, Philip comes in and they sing the same lines to him… At least in Regietheater, even if things do not always make sense with the text, they make sense in the concept.

OK, one can always close his eyes, one could say. Not here – the sets and costumes were not ugly, sometimes beautiful and the musical performance was hardly inspiring. Donald Runnicles and Italian opera: I have seen his Otello in the Deutsche Oper, beautiful Straussian sonorities but very little drama. This evening, Verdi’s little theatrical tricks were basically left to imagination. The light-voiced cast probably had something to do with that – and the conductor was always extremely helpful to his singers on producing breath-pauses in rich supply – but the basic sound was quite tame, sudden crescendo effects very restricted, full strings sonorities rarely used, suspense rarely produced with shift of tempo… Let’s use as example, the introduction to Elisabetta’s big aria in the last act – if there is an opportunity for the orchestra to fill the hall and get you on your throat, this is it. An orchestra used to play Wagner would have no problem with that – but it did.

The main reason of interest for me in this Don Carlo was Anja Harteros’s Elisabetta. Yes, I know I always write that I prefer to hear her in German roles, but she is such a special singer that I always want to hear her. Unfortunately, she had family problems and was replaced by Venezuelan soprano Lucrezia Garcia, whose break-through apparently was an Odabella at La Scala.  It is very difficult to explain Ms. Garcia’s performance – but don’t believe for a minute that it was not an important one. In the last…ten years?… a performance of a Verdi opera invariably elicited the comment “ah, pity that a legitimate Verdian soprano lirico spinto couldn’t be found for the role of ________”. Not this evening – Lucrezia Garcia has it. Full stop. It is a very rich, full, creamy sound – with a touch of Leontyne Price’s sexiness and a touch of Aprile Millo’s focus and strong low register – with well-blended registers, easy top notes and truly exciting high mezza voce. She is not a dramatic soprano, but it is a big voice for a lyric soprano, which – most importantly – has slancio in its extreme top notes, when it can sound thrice bigger.  At many moments, she was really Golden Age-thrilling. But only intermittently. To start with, although the voice is always exciting, the singer is quite helplessly unexciting. She does not seem to have a special connection with the text or dramatic situations and, if she never shows any lapse of taste, many turns of phrase are prosaic. I am not sure if one can acquire those qualities, but, if I were a conductor specialized in Italian repertoire, I would certainly try to Karajan-ize her.  Anna Smirnova, on the other hand, has no problem with eventfulness – in terms of character building, her Eboli was quite insightfully developed. Instead of letting it rip from bar one, she first showed her Eboli light-hearted and light-voice and only after Carlo’s rejection started to Souliotisize her singing. I have always heard Smirnova at 100% (as Amneris and Principessa di Bouillon) and was surprised by her control – but from a certain point on, I’ve started to have the impression that she was just not in a good-voice day. Her usually percussive low register failed to pierce-through, she fought pitch in the veil song and her dramatic top notes elsewhere were often unfocused and, even if quite forceful, a bit harsh.

Last time I wrote about this evening’s tenor, I’ve started to receive hate-mails in Italianate English threatening to sue me for not liking him. As I am busy and have other things to do other than dealing with postal blackmailing, I will just write what I found positive: he has beautiful tonal quality. Boaz Daniel too is light-voiced for the role of Rodrigo and was sometimes at the limit of his possibilities, but he is a singer with natural feeling for phrasing, good diction and sense of style, not to mention that his baritone is pleasant on the ear. Roberto Scandiuzzi has seen better days and took a long time to warm up – until his big aria, the sound was a bit woolly and greyish, but from Ella giammai m’amò, it gained its full colors, but not the generosity of some years ago. Ante Jerkunica caused at first a more striking impression, but he seems to find the part too high sometimes. Finally, Kathryn Lewek’s heavenly soprano was really properly cast as the “voice from above”.

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Verdi’s Don Carlo is something of a tough cookie, and problems start before a note has been played – what edition to pick? And things are far more difficult than saying 4 or 5 acts, French or Italian, for there are minor editorial choices after those big decisions have been made. Then there is the problem of finding a truly world-class cast, for even the small roles require top-notch singing. As often in Verdi, banal conducting can reduce the whole thing to mere politeness, and the libretto demands a dark atmosphere that can only be produced by a very good orchestra. And then there is the matter of production – the philosophical, political and psychological issues raised by Schiller and recreated by the composer and his librettists invite a “new reading”, but it remains to be solved how “revisionist” directors are going to deal with a plot involving court etiquette, religious police and people being sent to convents. Of course, things like that still happen in the XXIst century, but not among European rulers as German directors like to believe. If that were true, a grimacing five year-old girl would hardly be the most interesting thing in Kate Middleton and Prince William’s wedding.

For instance, Philipp Himmelmann’s 2004 staging for the Deutsche Staatsoper has Philipp II in black tie, Eboli is a combo of Oksana Balinskaya and amazon bodyguard and the auto-da-fé is a dinner party where naked victims of torture hanging from ropes are very much part of the catering. Considering that the concept’s focal point is a table and its double function as a altar and as the piece of furniture on which food is served, one can imagine the level of depth in this production: on hearing Carlo say he loves her, Elisabetta grabs a nonstick steam iron and indulges in an ironing spree to the rhythm of the music. I was going to write that Himmelmann’s main fault is that he failed to take hints from the MUSIC in order to understand the atmosphere of each scene, but he has actually done that in a very elementary way, by synching the actors to Verdi’s score, for childish effects sometimes, as in the Filippo/Inquisitore scene, where they play hide-and-seek around… the table, while the king uses chairs as obstacles to gain advantage from the blind priest.

Conductor Massimo Zanetti has a good ear for textures and dramatic effects, taking advantage of the Staatskapelle Berlin’s Wagnerian “background” to create some surprising moments. However, I am not able to tell if the absence of a galvanizing cast did not inspire him to something more gripping or if he was not able to extract from his singers more engagement – what is sure is that the performance had its moments, but unfortunately they did not build up to a coherent performance.

Amanda Echalaz’s mealy, metallic and fluttery soprano does not correspond to what one expects from a singer in the role of Elisabetta. The sound is not aristocratic or vulnerable, she cannot float a pianissimo to save her life and her Italian is indistinct. She does have a big voice and does not seem fazed with what she has to do (actually, she sometimes seems almost unconcerned), but after a while one wants more than that. Although Nadia Krasteva’s mezzo is typically Slavic, the stamina and the attitude are a reasonable Ersatz for Verdian style. The role takes her to her limits, but she is very naughty about what her limits are and, by the end, one forgives her more than one planned to do. For instance, her O don fatale proved to be far more effective than one could guess. The difficult stretta, for instance, was handled more accurately than one may hear in some famous recordings. In any case, in a cast like this, although Adriane Queiroz appears on stage as a soprano hired to sing in the “auto-da-fé” party, one could guess from her first note that she was the voice from heaven.

There are moments when one expects a bit more legato from Fabio Sartori, but he is nonetheless one of the best tenors in the Italian repertoire these days. The voice is free, spontaneous, slightly-dark toned but for the clarion top notes, of which he has an endless supply. And when you think that you have more or less “got” what he can do, he gave his Elisabetta a run for her money, producing admirable mezza voce in almost Mozartian cantabile in their final duet (shorn from its “fast” episode). He still has to deal with his unbecoming physique and a certain lack of charisma, but the vocal assets are hard to overlook. Alfredo Daza was a forceful, dramatically compelling Posa, but his baritone is too grainy for comfort and after a while one really wants a bit more beauty of tone. For many, the raison d’être of this Don Carlo is René Pape’s Filippo. His voice is, of course, noble and big enough for the role, but my ears find him too German for this role. It is not a matter of pronunciation – his Italian is very clear for that matter – but rather the voice lacks menace and impact in comparison to, say, Ferruccio Furlanetto’s (and many Golden-age-aficionados would say Furlanetto himself is far from exemplary) a couple of years ago. And he lacks abandon – the expression is a bit calculated and the acting-with-the-voice effects in his big aria only seem to prove that the voice alone was not doing the trick. Rafal Siwek’s Inquisitore had more immediate authority if less variety.

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Although Don Carlo is a work often staged by the main opera houses in the world these days, few theatres could boast to cast it with such a starry group of singers as the Met, especially in the rarer Italian five act version. When the curtains open at the Fontaineblau’s scene, the Romantic Kaspar David Friedrich-like images sound promising indeed, in spite of a not entirely welcome coziness of atmosphere. However, the next scenes are bureaucratically staged and never did the auto-da-fé look so comfortable to look at – maybe Republican sensibilities would rather avoid the burning of the heathen in front of the audience… The sense of routine would not be improved by Fabio Luisi’s highly irregular conducting. He showed slack control over his forces: the orchestral phrasing was often imprecise and most ensembles sounded disjointed. The auto-da-fé was also from the musical point of view a non event – undisciplined choir and brass section would not help him anyway. Acts IV and V showed a noticeable improvement, also because the singers seemed to reach their best form then.

Although Sondra Radvanovsky’s firm creamy soprano has some artifficialites in order to make for a certain immaturity in this repertoire, she more than measured up to the big moments, especially a vocally immaculate act V, crowned by exquisite pianissimo singing. The same cannot unfortunately be said of Violeta Urmana’s Eboli. Of course this favourite singer displayed her customary musicianship and rock-solid technique, proving to have one of the most homogeneous mezzos in this repertoire. However, the kind of vocal upfront impact required by Verdian writing is incompatible to her vocalisation and the results were a bit dull. Her two arias were too calculated to produce the right effect, although in terms of stage presence she often overshadowed Radvanosky’s more generalized acting.

Richard Margison’s tenor is natural and quite pleasant, but he seemed to be short of top notes that evening, having to resort to some forcing and squeezing to get up there. His looks were not one would call physique du rôle, but his unexaggeration is more than welcome. As to Dwayne Croft, his baritone developed to be smoother and darker than it used to be and he sang with consistent legato throughout. It is a pity that his “macho” acting is so unintentionally comic that it made me think of Monthy Python movies. Although Ferruccio Furlanetto’s voice is not as rounded and smooth as it used to be in Karajan’s days, he is still a commanding Filippo, offering crusty delivery of the text and producing consistently firm tone. His sensitive rendition of his great aria is still exemplary in its dramatic accuracy. As for Paata Burchuladze’s Inquisitore, yes, it is a very powerful voice, but quite wobbly and his Italian is incomprehensible. Finally, Vitalij Kowaljow, taking the role of the friar, is a name to keep and Olga Makarina has the right pearly tone for the Voice from Heaven.

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