Don Carlos – Opera in five Acts to a libretto by Joseph Méry & Camille Du Locle, based on the play Don Karlos, Infant von Spanien by Friedrich von Schiller [sung in French with Met Titles in English, German and Spanish]
Don Carlos – Matthew Polenzani
Élisabeth de Valois – Sonya Yoncheva
Rodrigue, Marquis of Posa – Etienne Dupuis
Eboli – Jamie Barton
Philippe II – Eric Owens
Grand Inquisitor – John Relyea
A Monk – Matthew Rose
Count of Lerme – Joo Won Kang
Thibault – Meigui Zhang
A Royal Herald – Eric Ferring
A Voice from Above – Amanda Woodbury
The Metropolitan Opera Chorus
The Orchestra of the Metropolitan Opera
David McVicar – Production
Charles Edwards – Set Designer
Brigitte Reiffenstuel – Costume Designer
Adam Silverman – Lighting Designer
Leah Hausman – Movement Director
Reviewed by: Susan Stempleski
Reviewed: 28 February, 2022
Venue: Metropolitan Opera House, Lincoln Center, New York City
Following a moving rendition of the Ukrainian national anthem by the Met’s chorus and orchestra during which the audience stood in silence, the curtain rose on the company’s first-ever production of the original five-Act French-language version of Don Carlos, Verdi’s longest and most ambitious opera, perhaps his finest. As the Russian invasion of Ukraine continues, the darkness and oppression in this sprawling and masterful tale of doomed love in a troubled royal court of Inquisition-era Spain resonates more strongly than ever.
Yannick-Nézet-Séguin leads a sextet of all-star principal singers. As the highly-strung Princess Eboli,Élisabeth’s lady-in-waiting, who has had an adulterous relationship with King Philippe, but who is in love with the Infante, the titular Don Carlos, Jamie Barton shows off her astonishing vocal and theatrical skills in the stand-out performance of the evening. Her third-Act aria, ‘O don fatal’ (Oh fatal gift), in which she expresses regret for having betrayed her queen and reveals her decision to save Don Carlos, is a showstopper, as her powerful voice, replete with smoldering high notes and a brazen chest voice, perfectly conveys her character’s emotional conflicts.
Also impressive is his Met debut asRodrigue, the Marquis de Posa, the close friend of Don Carlos and loyal supporter of the King, is the smooth-toned Etienne Dupuis. His beguiling baritone is especially persuasive in the Act Two aria, ‘L’Infante Carlos, notre espérance’(The Infante Carlos, our hope), in which he gives Élisabeth a note from Carlos and urges her to see the Infante alone, and in the same Act, his closely harmonized duet with Carlos, ‘Dieu, tu semas dans nos âmes’ (God, you scattered in our souls), in which the two menswear eternal brotherhood and devotion to the cause of liberty, comes across as wonderfully warm and incredibly intimate.
In a stylish and triumphant role debut as the melancholic Don Carlos, heir to the Spanish throne, the versatile lyric-tenor Matthew Polenzani, displays his usual refinement as his character moves from depression to blazing intensity. He brings tremendous passion and thrilling high notes to his second-Act duet with Élisabeth in which they both agonize about their fate, and his voice blends beautifully with hers in ‘Au revoir dans un monde où vie est meilleure’ (To meet again in a world where life is better), their farewell duet at the heart of the final Act.
In the demanding role of Élisabeth de Valois, daughter of Henri II of France, betrothed unseen to the Infante but later married to King Philippe, Sonya Yoncheva delivers splendidly, exhibiting imposing tone and gorgeously round middle voice. Her huge Act Five solo is a highlight in an evening filled with many.
As the aged, limping and blind Grand Inquisitor, John Relyea, dressed in a tent-sized blood-red robe and walking with two canes, is an authoritative and menacing presence, dominating each scene in which he appears. His booming bass-baritone pairs well with and seems to elevate Eric Owens’s less-imposing instrument, dry and colorless for the most part, to something more powerful in the finale of Act Four when the Inquisitor quells the mob attacking the King/ Owens’s is an inexpressive portrayal of the King, notably lacking in the desired stage presence and charisma, and the only weak link in this mostly world-beating cast.
Yannick Nézet-Séguin’s sensitive conducting draws elegant and lightly textured sounds from the orchestra in the softer passages and plenty of excitement and forward momentum in the more explosive moments. The magnificent Met Chorus brings great force to the drama, especially in the third Act’s auto-da-fé finale, and the celestial voice ending the scene, rendered by Amanda Woodbury from the highest reaches of the house, is exquisitely heavenly-sounding.
David McVicar’s spare, single-set production is largely traditional and dominated by grays and black, as are Brigitte Reiffenstuel’s sumptuous period costumes. Adam Silverman’s lighting designs dramatically enhance the struggle for freedom amid the gloom and tyranny of Inquisition-era Spain.
- Further performances on March 3, 6 (matinee), 10, 13, 18, 22, and 26 (matinee)
- The March 26 performance will be transmitted live to cinemas around the world as part of The Met: Live in HD series and broadcast over the Toll Brothers–Metropolitan Opera International Radio Network.The March 18 performance will be broadcast live on Met Opera Radio on Sirius XM Channel 355 and streamed live on the Met’s website, metopera.org.