Wednesday, July 15, 2015


The blurb says for Sydney it's been fifteen years since (the four act) Don Carlo(s), the mighty grand Verdi take on politics, religion, insurrection (and sex) was given a run here. It was it seems beyond the scope of the forces, and/or finances, involved and boiled over into a dummy spit by Elijah Moshinsky about the standards of the orchestra with Simone Young, then MD, taking up a strident defence. Now he, and not she, is back.

For me it's been twenty.

Here I am at the grand old age of mumble mumble meeting it for the first time live. In younger days, I waited half a day on the steps of Palais Garnier, all comraderie and false expectations, before retiring ticketless for lunch at (Maison de) La Lozère, a rustic cheapo at the back of the tourist bureaux for the region. And after that, and a carafe or so, we lingered in the luxury of slow time in Paris. I'd been in Paris a month, and C had just arrived.

It was September 27 1986.

Terror was on the streets. Nine days before, the most deadly of a series of bombings spewed death, havoc and more fear through the city as the Tati discount store on Blvde Montparnasse exploded. I was staying nearby at St Sulpice. Armed police, or military, were stationed every fifty metres or less on the streets, and corners. There would be no tickets, standing, returns or otherwise, to off-the-streets for this grand season opener.

Anyway, last night the Don Carlos arrived in Sydney from Melbourne where the reviews have been fairly gushing. I really only wanted tell my little story for my rocking chair days, but I've a few wee thoughts on things.  Many of the now regulars I was hearing for the first time. I don't know the work well, just the few more famous bits, though we watched the Salzburg Kaufmann/Harteros/Pappano (five act) version on the weekend, and then a bit more.

It is long; it is big; it is hard. And they did well. Is it narky to complain at all? Not really - it's hugely expensive. We sat in the front row which is more affordable, but you are denied subtitles (it shouldn't be too hard to organise I'm told) and with a tendency toward anything you can sing I can sing louder, it was seriously loud. And for what it's worth, there were way too many empty seats. There's something wrong here. There should be people waiting half a day of tickets (v.s.).

Ferruccio Furlanetto was outstanding. He stopped the show, rightly so. Really, a tremendously sung and felt Philip. I did like Jose Carbo's Rodrigo. I really like his style. They could call the whole damn thing Rodrigo; he's there, and there, and still there. Diego Torre was pretty unsubtle. The voice is big, and rings, or at least your ears do in the front row, if not bleed. Once (I can think of only once) in the final love duet he softened into some nuance and it was a really lovely sound. Latonia Moore's a big voice too and had the music's measure, if for me again relying a bit too much on more is more. Milijana Nikolic I'd been looking forward to seeing, and she's impressive, and handsome of stage. David Parkin was a very strong ghost, a very young one but then ghosts can sound whatever. Daniel Sumegi was up against Mr Furlanetto and didn't win.

I didn't care for the sets one bit. I know it's a Sydney / Melbourne small stage / big stage thing. But I just do get why you design for a tiny stage by making it two thirds smaller. And then fill it with costumes which cramp it even more. The sets were realist through hyporealism to semi-abstract, and the clincher I-really-don't-like-this was the jail scene where some granite arch, looking like an opera house shell had crashed through, was plonked there some reason still escaping me and for Mr Carbo (bless him) to gingerly tippy toe across without slipping. Now, I have to bitch - a ghost with walking sticks? Can someone help me there?

The production was stand and sing, mostly. Mr Furlanetto got some character into it, Carbo too, and the others tried, but really, detailed it isn't. It guess with something this size, it's consuming enough to get people placed. It really is a massive work. At least they're doing it.

Rushing (to Susan Graham singing Ravel and Respighi), I ungraciously overlooked credit to the great choral work, the well cast minor roles, the really very fine and true Verdi sounds from the pit and the charming Andrea Licita conducting. His score was as fat and squat as it was old, weathered and well fingered, and likely been toted around the globe for yonks. He certainly knew it, and enjoyed it.

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