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Don Carlos

By Giuseppe Verdi

2nd, 3rd, 5th & 6th July 2002
York Theatre Royal

Based on Friedrich Schiller’s play of the same name, Don Carlos is a most powerful work, including some of Verdi’s most dramatic music. The central scene of the auto-da-fe, when the condemned are taken away to be burned to death, is magnificent in its terror. In the early twentieth century, the opera was rarely performed, but since the 1950s it has become a staple part of the repertory.

The story, set in the 16th century, concerns the love of the son of the Spanish king with the Princess Elizabeth de Valois. He is amazed when his father claims her in marriage for political reasons, but carries on a secret correspondence with her, even though she is now his step-mother. Don Carlos is persuaded by his friend the Marquis of Posa to give support to the oppressed people of Flanders (then the Spanish Netherlands). The Inquisition is cruel in condemning both insurgents and their sympathizers (including Don Carlos and Posa) to death, and it assassinates Posa. Through Elizabeth’s good offices and prayers, however, Don Carlos is spared death and enters a monastery.

Cast

A Friar

John Soper

Don Carlos, Crown Prince of Spain

Martin Neil Dunn

Rodrigo, Marquis of Posa

Kevin Ormond

Philip II, King of Spain

Michael de Costa

Elizabeth of Valois, wife of Philip II

Sharon Nicholson-Skeggs

Tebaldo, Elizabeth’s page

Cathy Atkin

The Princess Eboli

Linda Baxter

The Count of Lerma

David Neild

A Celestial Voice

Pauline Chadwick

The Grand Inquisitor

Clive Goodhead

 

Musical Director – Alasdair Jamieson

Director – Clive Marshall

 

Set Design – John Soper

Costume Design – Maggie Soper

 

Reviews

‘Don Carlos’ – The Evening Press, July 2002

It is a safe bet that few, if any, other amateur opera companies in this country will be attempting Verdi’s ‘Don Carlos’ this year. But York Opera has never let the grass grow under its feet. The basic requirement for an orchestra of more than 40 and a chorus enlarged to more than 60 at the climactic moments is daunting enough and plenty of non-company singers have rallied to the cause. But even in the somewhat abridged version of 1884, this is a big piece. Needless to say, York Opera has remained undaunted, triumphing in almost every department.

The foundation for the success of this Clive Marshall production lies first in the pit, where Alasdair Jamieson achieves some minor miracles. He conducts with flair and a certain opportunism. There are, it is true, longeurs towards the end of Act I. But everywhere else his pacing is sure-footed. His brass do him especially proud: the dancing trumpets, for example, at the close of Act II; the deeper voices, too, spine tingling at the appearance of the Grand Inquisitor. Six solid principals lead the fray on stage. None are found wanting. On the contrary, Sharon Nicholson-Skeggs puts in a superb performance as Elizabeth of Valois, her cool stage presence, without extraneous gesture, complementing a vivid soprano that she uses with the utmost musicality. Her closing prayer is riveting.

Martin Neil Dunn takes the tenor title role with considerable courage, notably unafraid of its upper reaches. His diction – not a strong point among this cast, who need to exaggerate their projection almost throughout – is at least clear, if a little tortured. He undermines his vocal authority with excessive upper body movement. But this is easily remedied. Kevin Ormond delivers a strong Rodrigo, his baritone a little bumpy in the early stages but achieving admirable smoothness as he confronts death. His reaction to the shooting is underplayed.

Michael de Costa takes time to develop a fire in his belly as Philip II: oddly detached at first, he gradually assumes a proper hauteur, and his bass is always reliable. Linda Baxter’s lively Princess Eboli, expansive at the top of her mezzo and Clive Goodhead’s wonderfully dignified Grand Inquisitor complete a powerful line-up.

Arrayed in bright costumes by Margaret Soper, the chorus is consistently disciplined. And the fire at the stake is exceptionally realistic. Don’t miss this inspiring evening.

Martin Dreyer




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