Don Carlo - Royal Opera House, 4 May 2013
Jonas Kaufmann wasn't ill; Anja Harteros turned up. Given that she'd marked half her lines at the general rehearsal earlier in the week (every singer's prerogative of course, but rare here) I had wondered. If success is defined as exceeding expectations, then the opening night of this third revival was a winner even before a note was sung.
Neither hit their best form immediately. In Harteros's case, and not for the first time, a Callas aphorism came to mind - something like she had a poor first act, a good second act and a great third act. Squawky patches gradually smoothed out until she crowned the evening with a fine Tu che le vanità.
A curiously bottled first scene aside, Kaufmann sang magnificently. Hytner's conception of Carlo as an awkward, lovesick teenager in the Hamlet mould sat more easily with the role's creator, Rolando Villazón, than the naturally assured Kaufmann, but he didn't shirk from trying.
Mariusz Kwiecień made an elegantly sung but dramatically inert Posa, while Béatrice Uria-Monzon as Eboli was the opposite - the most engaging and least listenable figure on stage.
As he has done every night since this production began, Ferruccio Furlanetto blew everyone else off stage. King Philip gets the best music in the opera, and Furlanetto knows exactly what to do with it. Hytner's emphasis on Philip's isolation was amplified by the anguish and resignation in Furlanetto's Ella giammai m'amò, the tiny sob in his voice.
If the pace seemed to sag a little when Furlanetto left the stage, part of the blame must be placed on Pappano's shoulders. The orchestra played beautifully, fleet and fluid, and there were some exquisitely detailed passages, but the theatrical element was not as strong as we have come to expect. A little overstatement never hurt anyone.
production photos (above) Catherine Ashmore/Royal Opera House
curtain call photos (below) intermezzo.typepad.com
Thanks to Kyoko, here are the curtain calls of the first night and below, the general rehearsal: