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Verdi’s ‘Don Carlo’ broadcasts in Breckenridge

Elmer Koneman
Special to the Daily

The Metropolitan Opera’s first new production of Verdi’s “Don Carlo” since 1979 will continue with The Met: Live in HD series, to be broadcast live in the auditorium at the Colorado Mountain College/Breckenridge at 10:30 a.m. Saturday.

The cast stars Roberto Alagna as Don Carlo, Marina Poplavskaya as Elisabetta, Ferruccio Furlanetto as King Philip II and Eric Halvarson as the Grand Inquisitor. Rounding out the cast are Anna Smirnova as the “fatal beauty” Princess Eboli and Simon Keenlyside as the revolutionary Rodrigo, supported by the outstanding Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Chorus.

Verdi’s monumental work, drawn mostly from a dramatic play, “Don Carlos, Infante of Spain,” written by Friedrich Schiller, is a dark and intense epic in which love, war, politics and religion combine in mid-16th century Spain at the height of the Inquisition. This production is directed by Nicholas Hytner, the artistic director of London’s National Theatre, and conducted by Philadelphia Orchestra Music Director Designate Yannick Nezet-Seguin, who led last season’s Live in HD transmission of “Carmen.”

The opera opens in the forest near Fontainebleau, where a chance meeting occurs between Don Carlo, the Crown Prince of Spain, and his betrothed Princess Elizabetta, daughter of the King of France, where they exchange their love. It was soon announced, however, that King Philip II himself, Carlos’ father, would marry Elizabetta in order to establish peace between Spain and France. Beyond a political maneuver, the elder king takes this move to thwart the threats posed by his dreamy, idealistic son.

Much as in a hero’s journey, we next follow the dejected Carlos who, at the urging of his friend Rodrigo, plans to take up the cause of Flanders to defend the downtrodden Flemish people from war and religious oppression. At this juncture, Verdi captures – in the form of arias, dialogues, duets, quartets, choral assemblies and ballets performed by a superb cast – the enlightenment ideals of liberty and self-determination against political and religious oppression as portrayed in Shiller’s poem. Interwoven are family and societal stories of powerful people facing religious fanaticism, who often become alienated from one another and from their inner selves.

The 10-minute fourth act scene between the Grand Inquisitor and King “Filippo” has been heralded as one of the most compelling interactions set in all of Verdi operas. It is during this short dialogue where church and state come into direct conflict. After considerable ranting and raving, Filippo finally condescends to inner penance offered by the Grand Inquisitor Posa, who sings the famous line, “when faith speaks, everything bows and is silent.” In a skirmish that ends the opera, Rodrigo is shot by a soldier of the inquisition, a mob storms the prison, and Carlos, who has been incarcerated by his father, is badly wounded in the attack. The opera ends with one of the friars hovering over Carlos, leaving for the audience to interpret whether he is being beckoned into the cloister or into the life beyond.

Verdi himself professed that the opera Don Carlo was “born in fire and flame.” Everyone attending this production will experience in-depth this period of history, played out in the voice and action of powerful characters with background stage settings that will live long in memory.


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