Friday, February 19, 2010

Secco, Radvanovsky, D'Intino and Tézier for a knockout singing in Don Carlo

Opéra National de Paris (Bastille), Wed February 17, 2010

Graham Vick Stage director
Carlo Rizzi Conductor
Giacomo Prestia King Philipp II.
Stefano Secco Don Carlo
Ludovic Tézier Rodrigo, marchese di Posa
Victor Von Halem Il Grande Inquisitore
Balint Szabo Un Frate
Sondra Radvanovsky Elisabetta di Valois
Luciana D’Intino La Principessa Eboli
Jason Bridges Il Conte di Lerma

This is a revival of the Graham Vick's production. I already saw its previous incarnation a year and a half ago or so, when I discovered Teodor Currentzis and his atypical and passionate conducting. This time - hélas!- he isn't leading the orchestra. It is instead Carlo Rizzi who does his job very well.  If you look to spend a comfortable evening at the Opera with no surprises, then Rizzi is your guy. 

Graham Vick's production is good: it is very classical but cleverly constructed to explore the vast stage of Opéra Bastille and at the same time brings up the austerity of the dark age of inquisition. I'd prefer a modern production since the libretto for Don Carlo is anyway very far from the truth of its historical references. But OK, it's a classical staging and it is very well done -- we like it.  The use of lights to define the space and the atmosphere in which the drama takes place is very well done.

However, the most impressive part about this revival are the singers. Apart from Von Halem whose Inquisitore is nowhere near that of Misha Petrenko [who sang this role in the previous run of this production and who's our fav ever since], all the other singers are exceptionally good. 

Well, maybe I should also say that Giacomo Prestia is a very good King Filippo II, but not as good as Ferruccio Furlanetto or even René Pape. But the four main roles are sung absolutely brilliantly:

Stefano Secco was Don Carlo in the previous run; he was superb back then and he's now as good as before --if not even better. I guess the fact that Ludovic Tézier was singing Posa this Wednesday night pushed Secco to bring up his best singing too. He owns this role: he's strong and loud, his voice is "broadly timbred" and sounds alarming. Last time in this production Dima Hvorostovsky was Posa completely dominated by Secco's Don Carlo. This time the chemistry between Secco and Tézier resulted in so much better duos Don Carlo & Posa and the fireworks of muscled singing was wonderful. BRAVI

Two female roles  brought a major improvement to this production. I don't know if they sing this way all the time (is it humanly possible?), but their singing last Wednesday night was simply AWESOME.  O don fatale sung by Luciana D'Intino was a killer.  It's a knockout performance which makes you spontaneously scream "BRAVA". :) The quality of her gravi when you listen to her live, it is just incredible!  Here is one video with her which can be an OK approximation although in live it's just so much better...

But what to say about Sondra Radvanovsky? The amount of power she puts in her singing --especially towards the end-- it is simply unfreakingbelievable! I don't believe she's singing like this all the time. It must have been her very good night.

I found a video of Tu che le vanita on YT, which to me is not even a good approximation of what we had this Wednesday: the power she generates in the enormous hall of La Bastille is simply mind-boggling, and that in all registers of her voice. Bravissima! She's apparently about to release a CD which is good news, but if you get a chance to listen to her Elisabetta di Valois it's a very special operatic treat!

The chorus and the other singers were very-very good too.

Radvanovsky, Prestia, Tézier

Van Halem & D'Intino

 Stefano Secco

Chorus on the huge stage

Curtain calls were going on like forever [it was late Wednesday night!]

 Here is the time-schedule to better plan your evening [in case you decide to see/listen to this gem].


  1. Ahhhh, now this i'd like to talk about :-) I got to listen to th 1st night and powerful/loud is the cue word indeed. Everything is loud, everything is powerful, Verdi for the ones who like the woooosshhh effect ;-) I really liked Prestia and i think you can hear same school as Furlanetto, just a bit less experience which translates into less refinement, however still very good singing. The diccion however... hmmmm...

    For me, unsurprisingly the joy of the production is Tezier, by far! He sings elegantly, imposingly, with dignity and character and seemes to be the only who thrives for dynamics and variety in tone. His piani are warm and tender and i just wish there more of them! And his diccion is SUPERB! Anyone else in the production could take lessons, which is suprinsing consindering how many of them are Italians.

    But even he gets carried away and the death sounds absolutely perfect musically, when it actually shouldn't ;-). No weekeness, no dying breath in sight...
    Which is something i missed all throughout.. where is the tenderness, the melancoly, the hesitations and hidden tormens? There is no contrast between the garish power display in the open and the suffering internal world. In fact, no internal world to be found. It's spectacular in singing but gravely lacking in feeling at times... all too many times...

    I find it is a very old fashioned version of Verdi, yes the music is amazing and with good singing it carried quite some tunes, but Verdi is so much more than that! And this opera in particular is so much about human character, drama, life... at least by listening, very little of that came accross.
    I liked quite a few of the images and the lighting created quite a few effects, but i feel not enough has been made of it in characyer definition.
    It all stayed on an admittedly very very well sung surface... but it is still only the surface.

    And Rizzi drievs it loud and powerful and misses out on the tension just like the rest. Where was the crushing mortal stroke in La pace del sepolcri! ??? Lost... or not found..

    Hardly believable that the same ochestra produced that richness of colour and emotions we heard just a few weeks ago in Werther...

    Don't get me wrong, i enjoyed the singing but was saddened to once again see Verdi reduced to the eternal prejudice that it is just about powerful singing. Verdi is more generous than that and can give one more lasting impressions that just a quick adrenaline rush :-)

    Hope i'm not offending anyone with these thoughs, they stay my own subjective ones, of course :-)

  2. Nah, you're of course NOT offending anyone ;) I agree with most of your points. The orchestra was much better during the run in 2008 when it was lead by Teodor Currentzis. You cannot criticize too much Rizzi BUT there is no magic. He's good if you're looking for a comfy opera-evening and that's it!

    As for the singing, I will only slightly disagree ;) You can bring to life the nuances in THIS opera only after defining your territory by a good amount of testosterone and by singing it correctly in tune (I saw quite a few Don Carlo with powerful singing but painfully out of tune). That was done here.

  3. I agree on that, it was well and correctly sung and the voices sounded beautiful! And it is one of the toughest operas to go through for any of the singers, so yes, i am sure it was a good evening at the opera :-) And i think all of the singers can bring that extra something more, becuse good singers they all are. They will probably grow even more into their characters along the run :-) And it definitely helps if they are guided by a conductor who seeks that extra bit himself. I guess given the names of the singers it was me who set my own expectations very high :-)

  4. That must be a part of explanation. I, instead, went to see the show and expecting not much [well, after that horrid Idomeneo my expectations were very low] And then, it was like "Bang!"

    Plus, last time in this production we had Tamar Iveri and Yvonne Naef [Yvonne is a great singer but NOT for the role of Princess Eboli]. Now, imagine my surprise when I heard Luciana and Sondra. Wow ;)

    With that being said I of course like your point that more subtlety in singing the heavy Verdi roles makes a big qualitative difference.