The Well-Tempered Music Guy

Simple thoughts by a simple listener on classical music

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Gettin' Psyched for Don Carlo

I'm seeing it on Monday. James Levine is conducting this year's edition, and that's always a cause for celebration. He's a total master at Verdi. He brings out so much detail you might never notice, as he does with many composers, but he also masterfully controls the rhythms in Verdi, an element a lot of conductors seem to ignore. And Don Carlo is a masterpiece, a fact I've only discovered recently.

To get to know the opera, I obtained what seems to be the consensus pick, the Giulini Covent Garden recording. Consensus pick for good reason. What a cast! Domingo at the absolute top of his game, singing those glorious, melting, soaring lines. My appreciation for Sherrill Milnes has really grown since I first heard him, and he also sounds in top form. And Caballe, whom I actually wasn't familiar with before, is the complete package. Nice, creamy tone, solid power, good low notes, and most incredibly, GORGEOUS pianissimos. When she tapers a phrase, it holds me breathless.

The downsides of the recording are the two basses: Raimondi as Phillip is boring as usual, but especially Giovanni Foiani, whoever that is, as the Inquisitor. It's a small role, but an important one, and Foiani is just awful. Considering how starry the rest of the cast is, they didn't seem to be limited at all in terms of whom they could get, so it's strange that there would be such a weak link. His vibrato sounds bizzarre, almost as if he's flapping his hand over his mouth.

But hey, no recording is perfect, and overall I am just loving this one. I've listened to it probably twenty times already, and I'm still enjoying it more every time. We'll see how the live version goes, I just have to prepare myself for singers that surely will not be Domingo and Caballe.


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