Anticipated Don Carlo Misses Star Singer

AustriaAustria Verdi: Don Carlo, Chorus and Orchestra of the Staatsoper Vienna, Franz Welser-Möst (conductor), Vienna State Opera, 16.10.2013 (JMI)


Don Carlo, Ramón Vargas
Elisabetta, Tamar Iveri
Filippo II, Ferruccio Furlanetto
Rodrigo, Ludovic Tezier
Eboli, Violeta Urmana
Il Grande Inquisitore, Eric Halfvarson
Un Frate, Dan Paul Dumitrescu
Tebaldo, Ileana Tonca
Heaven’s Voice, Valentina Nafornita
Lerma/Araldo, Jinxu Xiahou


Direction, Daniele Abbado
Sets,Angelo Linzalata
Costumes,Carla Teti
Lighting, Alessandro Carletti

My stay in Vienna came to a close with one of the most anticipated operas of my trip. Anja Harteros was scheduled to appear in the role of Elisabetta de Valois but, unfortunately, she cancelled. Cancellations by this great artist happen too frequently to go unmentioned, although there is no doubt in my mind that she has good reasons for it.

This was the Daniele Abbado production that I had reviewed last year

Franz Welser-Möst was again the conductor, but he was not convincing. His reading had two distinct parts: the first one (through the end of the second act) was noisy and short of passion, but it improved in the seond part of the opera with a better control of the volume. Under his baton was the excellent Staatsoper orchestra with its rich, sometimes spectacular, sound. I’ve always found Welser-Möst to be a very good conductor, but Italian opera does not seem to be his natural field. With Verdi, the distance between Welser-Möst and Pappano – not to mention Muti – is great.

Ramón Vargas does not have the voice required for Don Carlo. There is no question regarding the beauty of his timbre or the elegance of his phrasing, but this heroic character does not fit into his voice which is rather small and too thin at the top. It is not a problem of tessitura but of suitability: he is more Nemorino than Don Carlo. Tamar Iveri substituted for Anja Harteros. Her Elisabetta was serviceable but inadequate for a house like the Vienna State Opera, and her singing has a tendancy toward monotony.

Ferruccio Furlanetto was Philip II, and once again he proved that he is a remarkable interpreter of the role. The case of this veteran singer is a curious one: his voice is not especially attractive, but he has had an important career. Tonal beauty may not be his main asset, but the fact is that he is a great artist. His performances are always remarkable, and one eventually forgets about the appeal of his voice. His “Ella giammai m’amo” and the confrontation with the Grand Inquisitor were the most exciting moments of the performance. It was a shame that his lament on the death of Posa was cut.

Ludovic Tezier made a very good Marquis of Posa. He is at an excellent moment in his career: his voice has gained in consistency, and today he is a leading interpreter of the role, melding his usual elegance of phrasing with a large dose of expressiveness. He is a baritone to reckoned with in any major opera house.

Violeta Urmana was Princess Eboli, and she proved again that she is best suited to these mezzo sopranos roles. In the same way that a tenor does not become a baritone when losing his top notes, a mezzo soprano does not become a soprano because she has a high C. Urmana’s recent performances as a soprano (Leonora, Lady Macbeth or Tosca) left me with a bitter taste. Here, her Princess Eboli was one of the strong points of the production. She was faultless in the Veil Song and was also excellent in “O, don fatale.”

Once again, Eric Halfvarson was the Grand Inquisitor, and once again he  proved to be one of the best interpreters today of the role. Both vocally and dramatically he was excellent. As for the secondary characters, Dan Paul Dumitrescu was a sonorous monk, and Ileana Tonca made an appealing Tebaldo. Valentina Nafornita was quite good as Heaven’s Voice, while Jinxu Xiahou was well suited to Lerma and the King’s Herald.

The Staatsoper was once again sold out. Anja Harteros’s cancellation meant that there were a number of people trying to sell their tickets. The audience was enthusiastic throughout the performance, with sonorous cheers at the final bows for Tezier, Urmana and Furlanetto.

José Mª. Irurzun