Don Carlo – Verdi – Grange Park Opera
In an ambitious tilt at major opera houses, Grange Park Opera has revived its 2016 staging of the immense and dramatic Verdi opera, Don Carlo, which was premiered in 1867. The original five act French libretto was shortened somewhat to a four act Italian version, which was on show in the Woods in Surrey and in this respect Jo Davies’s modest plain sets were more suited to this country house production.
With sets designed by Leslie Travers, Davies brings nearly all the action to the front of stage and with an almost outstanding cast the decibels in this small house were prodigious. The excellent small, young chorus projected real quality, singing together in close proximity under the guidance of the Movement Director Lynne Hockney and the mood of the different Acts and Scenes were well represented by the Lighting Designer, Anna Watson.
There were some exceptional performances. The Elisabeth of the soprano, Marina Costa-Jackson, produced a velvety voice with deep chest notes and a ringing top and was a glamorous addition from the 2016 performance. Returning to her role was the Princess Eboli of the Romanian mezzo soprano, Ruxandra Donose, whose voice gave us the depth of sound in her lower register but real quality throughout the range, including the high top that is written.
Clive Bayley returned as the brooding King Philip, always with a slight demonic portrayal of his role, but in the middle and latter part his booming voice became somewhat unsteady. Somehow he got to the end of his performance by covering his notes constantly and the only major disappointment of the night was his scene with The Grand Inquisitor sung by Branislav Jatic, which was somewhat underwhelming.
The Canadian baritone, Brett Polegato, was a more than adequate Rodrigo and the American born tenor, Leonardo Capalbo, was a substantial rasping quality tenor with a radiant clarion voice, somewhat in the Vittorio Grigolo mould of singing without the antics. David Shipley sang his two roles well as the Monk and Charles V.
Perhaps the main disappointment of the night was the express speed at which the Conductor, Gianluca Marciano, pushed the wonderful ENO orchestra. The lack of subtlety in his conducting throughout the evening was noticeable.
However, nothing can be taken away from what really was a fine Don Carlo that would have graced any bigger stage.