Rumours that the first revival of the Royal Opera House's Don Carlo was in even better shape than the original were given some weight by yesterday's dress rehearsal. Half the original cast return - Ferruccio Furlanetto as Philip, Marina Poplavskaya as Elisabetta and Simon Keenlyside as Posa. The new additions are Jonas Kaufmann (Carlos), Marianne Cornetti (Eboli) and John Tomlinson (the Inquisitor).
But it's the new conductor, Semyon Bychkov, who has the most impact. Some of his tempos are unique to say the least - the great third act ensemble is taken at such a clip the singers struggle to keep up. But it's a probing, intelligent perspective, at times revelatory - I suspect it will be controversial. Jonas Kaufmann's performance may be too. I had some reservations, but they can wait given this was only a rehearsal, things may change, etc.
Poplavskaya and Keenlyside bring a greater depth to their characterisations this time round. (Ferruccio Furlanetto is of course unimprovable). Poplavskaya in particular has matured astonishingly in just a year. Her range has extended upwards so she can now actually sing all the notes, and with what power. When she sings, she changes the temperature of the room.
Marianne Cornetti is a lovely sympathetic Eboli, and although John Tomlinson isn't quite as scary-looking as Eric Halvarson was, he sings with the authority of absolute power.
The sets seemed uglier than I remembered them, the lighting brasher and less forgiving - just a concession to the official photographers snapping away? I hope so.