The Dallas Morning News, 23 July 2014
Scott Cantrell
Opera DVDs: ‘Don Carlo,’ ‘Ariadne” from Salzburg Festival
For all the hand-wringing about the death of the classical-music recording business, an amazing amount of product continues to come out. Here, on Blu-ray discs, are two high-profile opera productions from the Salzburg Festival. Among the attractions, in two very different roles, is Jonas Kaufmann, probably the hottest thing among heldentenors these days—and, in the high-definition video, quite visibly working up sweats.

The prize here is the 2013 Salzburg Don Carlo, grippingly directed by Peter Stein. If you can dispense with realistically specific sets—Ferdinand Wögerbauer’s are pretty spare—this is the kind of singing and acting that can turn a skeptic into an opera lover. Annamaria Heinreich supplies more or less Complete with the opening Fontainebleau-forest scene, it’s a long five acts, but both vocally and dramatically a powerhouse cast gives its considerable all. With a sure balance of detail and sweep, conductor Antonio Pappano gets glorious playing from the Vienna Philharmonic.

Verdi’s story of mismatched loves is set during the Spanish Inquisition. Both Anja Harteros’ Elisabetta and Kaufmann’s Don Carlo sing thrillingly and capture their conflicted characters’ every emotional nuance; Kaufmann even manages a brighter, more Italianate tone than I expected. Thomas Hampson is the sonorous marquis Rodrigo, Matti Salminen an aged but still imposing King Filippo II. Ekaterina Semenchuk hasn’t the most luxurious voice for the conniving princess Eboli, but she’s a strong presence. Eric Halfvarson is genuinely terrifying as the Grand Inquisitor. Add excellent video direction by Agnes Méth and vivid recorded sound.


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