Wookyung Kim is a Great Success in Frankfurt’s Don Carlo

GermanyGermany Verdi, Don Carlo: Frankfurt Orchestra and Chorus, Pier Giorgio Morandi (conductor), Opernhaus, Frankfurt, 7.11.2015. (JMI)

Don carlo
Frankfurt Opera’s Don Carlo (c) Barbara Aumüller

Verdi, Don Carlo


Direction: David McVicar
Sets: Richard Jones
Costumes: Brigitte Reiffenstuel
Lighting: Joachim Klein


Don Carlo: Wookyung Kim
Elisabetta: Tatiana Monogarova
Philipp II: Andreas Bauer
Marquis de Posa: Daniel Schmutzhard
Eboli: Tania Ariane Baumgartner
Inquisitor: Magnus Baldvinsson
Friar: Vuyani Mlinde
Tebaldo: Julia Dawson
Lerma/Herald: Simon Bode
Voice from Heaven: Danae Kontora

David McVicar is one of the most prestigious directors on today’s scene, but this work doesn’t reflect his usual brilliance. The production, which premiered here in 2007, uses one basic set for all five acts (this is the Modena version of the opera). The walls and floor are made of gray brick, and the back wall lifts for outdoor scenes. Various elements rise from the floor to represent a tomb, a table or a platform. The scene at San Giusto features a large censer, while that in the chamber of Philip II adds a curtain. For the Auto da Fe, a large cross at the back goes up in flames. The costumes are well suited to the historical time of the action and are basically in dark tones, although the general atmosphere of this production is less dark than usual.

Mr. McVicar’s stage direction nicely differentiates the different characters, but the wisdom of having Don Carlo die at the hands of his father’s guards is debatable: it eliminates all the mystery at the end of the drama. Another questionable aspect is the fact that in the Auto da Fe scene only members of the court are present. It should be remembered that these executions took place before the general public, although the court also attended.

I’ve never found Pier Giorgio Morandi a particularly convincing conductor, and his musical direction here came as surprise to me: he was brighter that I expected, and there was more tension in his reading. It was the best performance I can remember from him, and both the orchestra and chorus were excellent.

Tenor Wookyung Kim as Don Carlo gave the best performance of the entire cast. He impressed me the first time I saw him, ten years ago in Dresden in the role of the Italian Tenor in Der Rosenkavalier. His voice is beautiful, and it has widened significantly in recent years, with the result that it’s now very appropriate for the character of Don Carlo. He showed power and expressiveness, and his only problem was the high C of the Auto da Fe. He is a tenor who can successfully appear on any major opera stage.

I found Russian soprano Tatiana Monogarova inadequate in the role of Elisabetta. Her voice has a certain amplitude and is attractive in the middle, but there are also some artificial sounds. Her singing was quite monotonous, and her diction was impossible. It’s as if her Italian consists only of vowels.

I was disappointed in Andreas Bauer as Philip II. He is an excellent interpreter, but his voice is not greatly pleasing. Austrian baritone Daniel Schmutzhard was a noble Marquis of Posa. He sings and acts well, but his voice is too small and light for this  role.

Mezzo-soprano Tania Ariane Baumgartner is one of the best artists in the company and is always excellent on stage. This was repeated in her portrayal of Princess Eboli, but she was tested by the tessitura and had problems in the aria “O, Don Fatale.”

Magnus Baldvinsson was a disappointing Grand Inquisitor. To begin with, he is not the true bass required by the character. In the secondary roles, Vuyani Mlinde was a correct Monk. Simon Bode offered a small voice as Count of Lerma and Herald, as did Julia Dawson as Tebaldo. Danae Kontora was the Voice from Heaven, with a pleasant timbre, although it sounded amplified.

Jose M. Irurzun

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