Concerts & Opera

A Don Carlo in Genoa with the finest cast in Italy



Three major Italian opera houses, in Milan, Genoa and Florence, have staged Verdi’s Don Carlo this year and of the three it was the Teatro Carlo Felice in Genoa that secured the finest cast and the most cohesive interpretation—led by Valerio Galli, a talented Tuscan conductor who shaped the music unerringly and created a strong rapport between stage and pit.

The production, imported from Parma and based on the four-act version of the score, was directed by Cesare Lievi, with sets and costumes by Maurizio Balò. It offered no new dramaturgical insights and failed to lend full credibility to the complex interaction in the third and fourth scenes of act three, where Filippo, Elisabetta, Eboli and Rodrigo are all on stage together, but the singers were appropriately costumed and well-lit and the staging made one powerfully aware of the extent to which the Catholic Church was a force for evil in 16th century Spain, even though the strong-voiced Marco Spotti was less chillingly perfidious than some great Inquisitors of the past.

It is always difficult to cast the title role in this opera, but the Aquiles Machado proved close to ideal. The voice rings a little less resolutely in the upper register than it did a decade ago, but words were projected with moving intensity within a freely modulated legato line. His sustained piano singing in the act four duet with Elisabetta was admirable, and one never doubted either Carlo’s love for Elisabetta or his political idealism: it thus seemed appropriate that the Venezuelan tenor should unfurl his troubled country’s flag during the final curtain calls.

Svetla Vassileva (Elisabetta di Valois) and Franco Vassallo (Rodrigo) / Photo: Marcello Orselli

Franco Vassallo proved that he is one of the sturdiest Rodrigos around today: although his tone is more heavily ‘covered’ than would have been usual for baritones in the period of the work’s première, he too combined a strong feeling for line with stirring diction and a real sense of idealism. His duet with Riccardo Zanellato’s Filippo II in act one (See the Youtube link below / Editor) proved to be the most psychologically compelling episode in the score, with the bass (handsome both in voice and presence) proving a worthy heir to the great interpreters—including Nicola Rossi Lemeni and Ferruccio Furlanetto—who have sung this role in Genoa in the past.

Riccardo Zanellato (Filippo II) / Photo: Marcello Orselli

At seventy-two, Giovanna Casolla has been performing Eboli longer than any other singer in the history of this opera and the voice is still a formidably powerful instrument (though stronger above the stave than below it), capable of punching out the words with disarming sincerity and shaping the phrases to sure theatrical effect: the Sunday afternoon audience awarded her an ovation after “O don fatale.” Svetla Vassileva, on the other hand, proved over-parted as Elisabetta. Her sure command of soft singing in the upper register enabled her to bring her act one aria to a noble conclusion, but elsewhere she too often had to sacrifice clear diction and limpid steadiness of emission in the effort to achieve the necessary volume of sound. The Heavenly Voice, Silvia Partani, also had a bit too much vibrato in her tone, but there was some well-focused singing from Mariano Buccino as the Frate, from the six baritones playing the Flemish deputies and from the Carlo Felice Chorus, trained by Franco Sebastiani.
Stephen Hastings, Genoa

Riccardo Zanellato (Filippo II) and Marco Spotti (Inquisitore) / Photo: Marcello Orselli


Taken from the performance on 30th April, 2017



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