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Verdi: Don Carlo ~ Haitink

5.0 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Audio CD, March 9, 2004
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (March 9, 2004)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 3
  • Label: Philips
  • ASIN: B0000C6IVZ
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #456,085 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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By E. J. Van Sten on October 3, 2005
Format: Audio CD
Haitink's Don Carlo is very much like Giulini's, but better recorded, better conducted (!) and overall more accomplished as a concept.

His cast is very different. While not all ideally suited to their roles, they are sensitive to the drama and have something interesting to say - no weak link among them. The one standout is Hvorostovski as Posa, in what must be his best recorded performance. Also, I prefer Gorchakova and Scandiuzzi here to many others. Margison as Don Carlo is in good voice, but in terms of characterisation not a patch on Carreras, Domingo (live or for Abbado), or Alagna. Recommended!
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To get the bad news over with quickly, the voices in Haitink's 1997 Don Carlo from London tend to be on the light side, and few of the performers are steeped in Italian style. The King Philip, Roberto Scandiuzzi, is Italian, but his voice sounds woolly and lacks authority. Elisabetta is the then-promising Russian soprano Galina Gorchakova. She has the vocal heft to sing any of Verdi's great dramatic soprano roles, but here she is a bit mature-sounding, and throaty in a Slavic way that takes some getting used to. She's at the opposite extreme from Mirella Freni, whose lyric soprano was clearly too light in Karajan's otherwise gripping set on EMI.

After that it's clear sailing. We get a fine orchestral reading from Haitink, more straightforward than either Karajan or Giulini but refined and beautifully balanced--only at times does the pacing feel too relaxed. It's certainly possible to play the score as a mroe haunted, doomed affair--the three leads, after all, are consumed by guilt almost from the beginning--but that's not Haitink's approach. Hvorostovsky gives one of his best performances on disc as Rodrigo, and the Canadian tenor Richard Margison comes amazingly close to superstars like Domingo and Carreras as Don Carlo. The three bass roles of the Monk, Philip II, and the Grand Inquisitor are taken by very good singers, even if they don't erase memories of Boris Christoff or Nicolai Ghiaurov. Olga Broodina makes for a world-class Eboli, as one would expect. The orchestra and chorus of the Royal Opera Covent Garden sound just right in scale, not overblown like Karajan's Berlin Phil.

Editions have become complicated for this opera. Here we have the 1886 Modena version, an Italian translation in effect of the five-act French score premiered in Paris. I msut say I thoroughly enjoyed it. to the point that even Gorchakova's miscasting can't bring five stars down to four.
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Format: Audio CD
Having it on my conscience that I am rarely complimentary about Bernard Haitink's conducting, I thought I would return to what I recall as one of his most successful recordings from 1996. In my estimation, he can be routine and even dull; this recording is certainly restrained and sometimes even leisurely in the same manner as Giulini's celebrated version a quarter of a century earlier, but I think Haitink finds more grandeur and pathos in the score without sacrificing the drama that I sometimes find missing in Giulini's account.

We do not find the usual selection of cast members of that era: instead, we hear three excellent Russian singers, a Canadian tenor and rising Italian bass Roberto Scandiuzzi. The latter did not go on to fulfil his promise, mainly because the rockiness already incipient in his tone became more pronounced but here, even if he cannot rival the most celebrated exponents of the role of Filippo such as Siepi, Christoff and Ghiaurov, he is imposing and moving, without quite the black-browed intensity and authority those predecessors brought to the part of the tortured king.

Horostovsky is superb as Posa: virile, vibrant and impassioned; there has been none better since. Gorchakova has a large, powerful, mezzo-tinted sound rather similar to the equally impressive Borodina, whose voluptuous tone is able to encompass the demands of her two big disparate arias. Both Gorchakova and Margison occasionally scoop but otherwise make a touching doomed couple and he rivals more famous tenors for the commitment and technical skill of his assumption of Carlo, even producing a trill and plenty of plangent top notes.
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