Giuseppe Verdi: DON CARLO
October 2012, Teatro Comunale “Luciano Pavarotti” di Modena
Conductor: Fabrizio Ventura, Orchestra regionale dell’Emilia-Romagna, Coro Lirico Amadeus. Stage direction: Jospeh Franconi Lee
Mario Malagnini (Don Carlo), Giacomo Prestia (Filippo II), Simone Piazzola (Rodrigo), Luciano Montanaro (Il Grande Inquisitor), Cellia Costea (Elisabetta), Alla Pozniak (Eboli) etc.
If the Verdi Year opened in Romania with a very good Don Carlo at the Radio Hall, a few weeks ago, the Italians had already started the preparations in 2012, with a 30 DVD set, containing all the operas of the great composer. The title is meaningful: Tutto Verdi, the price is pretty high, around 500 EUR. Some of these DVDs have already been launched individually, they contain performances mainly from Teatro Regio di Parma, and, generally, they received bad reviews. For instance, the destructive imagination of the critics reached new creative horizons with Ernani.
In my opinion, the interesting part is exactly the very good quality provincialism (if I may say so) of these performances. Artistic communities from Parma, Modena, Napoli, Trento, Bolzano, Busetto strived to honor the national composer. The productions are old fashioned and literal, but beautiful, and worth visiting. Soloists who know how to do their job, maybe not necessarily interpretative geniuses, make all the efforts, in all honesty, to sing the best they can, and, generally, they succeed. Of course, we are far away from the Met in HD or from the season opening at the Teatro alla Scala, but we are close to the opera as it is sung worldwide, generally speaking, we are closer to the opera theaters in Romania.
A surprise. Don Carlo, the 23rd DVD, includes Cellia Costea in its cast. This performance is from Modena, the “Luciano Pavarotti” theatre. And no surprise in the fact that the version presented is the “Modena” version (the one in Italian, in 5 acts, including “Fontainebleau”). The production is a very conventional one. The scenography means only some wooden platforms placed in front of some huge canvases with different trompe l’oeil images or with Carlos the Vth’s statue. The costumes are incredibly beautiful, reminding of famous productions by Visconti (mainly) or Zeffirelli. The stage direction is extremely conventional, more precisely it is mainly a game of postures and attitudes. Nevertheless, I was moved.
Mario Malagnini has the appearances of a washed out actor, of an old man who still wants to look like a jeune premier, but all he manages to be is ridiculous. True, the make up is so hideous that it would have made even Franco Corelli look ugly. His singing is unappealing, even if he knows what he sings about. I will not stress this point further, as this is the most sensitive one. Giacomo Prestia, Simone Piazzola and Alla Pozniak are reasonable, without virtues, their efforts to do their job as well as they can is highly visible. The orchestra and its conductor, Ventura – professionals.
Less than a year ago, I saw at the National Opera in Bucharest a Tosca where the soloists sang more or less like in the above-mentioned performance, better or worse, with visible efforts and relative success. But, from all those on stage, I noticed a voice that stood out way above all the others, a voice which, for the few minutes of the Vissi d’arte, made me feel I was in the best opera hall in the world, and I was listening to Renata Tebaldi. It was “just” Cellia Costea, who had come to Bucharest for a unique performance of Puccini’s opera.
At Modena, in Don Carlo, the situation was quite similar. If in the first act the singing was quite didactic, as the opera evolved, her voice stood out was more and more strongly. A voice with a clarity that I have heard only at Renata Tebaldi. A limpidity of the timbre doubled by a performing manner full of distinction, without dramatic excesses, without histrionic tears. Only music. And an attitude that suits her so well: that of a classical marble statue. And what could be more appropriate than marble when the character is Elisabeth de Valois? She regulates the dramatic intensity from the vocal intensity. The emotion is given by the firmness of some flawless high notes and by a vibrato perfectly under control. Superb. I hope she comes again to Bucharest. As I also hope she goes further, beyond Modena…