Assessment: The Met Brings Again a Shorter, Weaker ‘Don Carlo’

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One other week, one other set of music and not using a definitive model.

This time it isn’t a variant-strewn album rollout from Taylor Swift or Lil Child, however slightly a piece by Giuseppe Verdi, whose “Don Carlo” returned to the Metropolitan Opera on Thursday night time in a four-act, Italian-language version of a staging by David McVicar.

When McVicar’s manufacturing premiered final season, it was a real occasion: the corporate’s first mounting of “Don Carlos,” a model of Verdi’s authentic, five-act, French-language take, from 1867.

Now, the Met has returned to the Italian, primarily based on Verdi’s 1884 conception. However in a puzzling transfer, it has achieved away with its classic observe of presenting the opera in 5 acts. So on Thursday, the quick however essential opening act was minimize.

This will sound like hairsplitting, however relating to Verdi’s longest opera, much less is much less, even with a powerful forged just like the Met’s for this revival.

The tenor Russell Thomas is an interesting, emotive Don Carlo; on Thursday, he sounded significantly noble (and ardent) on the larger finish of his vary. In house-filling phrases, Russell’s shiny sound had a brassy, tossed-off assurance, with little signal of pressure. But in lower-pitched traces, he sometimes sounded swamped by the plush orchestral sound underneath the baton of Carlo Rizzi.

“Don Carlo” calls for plenty of sturdy voices, and the very best addition on this revival is the thrilling efficiency, significantly late within the night, from the bass Günther Groissböck as King Philip II. If the mezzo-soprano Yulia Matochkina was a bit laryngeal throughout Princess Eboli’s early Veil Music outdoors the monastery, her tackle the character had settled into a dismal radiance by the point she wanted to curse her personal magnificence (and thirst for machinations) deep into the plot.

However what plot, precisely? With out the chance to benefit from the first act’s mysterious meet-cute in Fontainebleau, it’s troublesome for an viewers to root for the doomed pairing of Don Carlo and Elisabeth. (She’s initially Don Carlo’s supposed; later she’s his stepmother and queen, after her marriage to his father, Philip.)

Component after component within the opera was equally hamstrung. The soprano Eleonora Buratto introduced a sublime tone and good excessive notes to bear in Elisabeth’s climactic closing look onstage — but the hourslong buildup to that second felt rote. All through, Don Carlo’s advocacy on behalf of the oppressed Flemish additionally got here throughout as muted with out the primary act’s sketching of diplomatic intrigue between France and Spain. The absence, and its impact on the opera’s momentum, was obtrusive, significantly in McVicar’s secure and budget-conscious manufacturing, which is mild on theatrical coups and sophisticated blocking.

There was enjoyment, although, within the blends of voices among the many singers — with the baritone Peter Mattei, as Rodrigo, seemingly at all times in the midst of the very best moments. He usually offered the jolt that the staging in any other case lacked: his large, supple sound labored properly alongside Thomas’s Carlo of their early duet and of their jailhouse goodbye, and spurred Groissböck’s Philip into extra dramatically various phrasing throughout their early political debates.

The Met might, sooner or later, milk McVicar’s staging for a five-act, Italian-language model. However this one was a dramatic fizzle; the large hits had been current and accounted for, and largely properly sung, however the night was, surprisingly, a drag. Cuts aren’t alleged to make operas really feel longer.

Some followers will need to hear “Don Carlo” in any kind. However as is the case with numerous editions of the identical pop album, there’s no significantly pressing want to gather ’em all.

Don Carlo

Via Dec. 3 on the Metropolitan Opera, Manhattan; metopera.org.

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