Bloomberg, Sept. 25, 2009
Warwick Thompson
Don Carlo
[Review “Le Grand Macabre” (ENO) left out]

For a more visceral approach to death and terror, Verdi’s “Don Carlo” at the Royal Opera ticks the box.

Dashing German tenor Jonas Kaufmann displays a shining voice and unflagging stamina in the role of the rebellious Carlo, battling with his father King Philip II of Spain. Kaufmann looks terrific in his 16th-century costume, and acts with arresting intensity.

The duet between Philip (Ferruccio Furlanetto) and the Grand Inquisitor (John Tomlinson), in which the king asks for a blessing on the murder of his son, is chilling. This dance of death has all the real horror that Ligeti’s piece lacks.

Not all the singing is up to this standard, and the energy sometimes flags in Nicholas Hytner’s four-and-a-half-hour production. Conductor Semyon Bychkov compensates with some impressive work in the pit. Rating: ***.

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