(Roberto Alagna, como protagonista de Don Carlo - Met Opera House, 2010)
Don Carlo corresponde à versão italiana – revista e actualizada – de Don Carlos, grand opéra francesa, estreada em Paris, em 1867. O original e sucedâneo inscrevem-se na plena maturidade verdiana – discurso melódico continuo (na linha do leitmotiv wagneriano), fluido, sem as árias características dos períodos precedentes (trilogia verdiana, por exemplo) -, cujo corolário se materializou em Otello e Falstaff.
Travei conhecimento com esta magistral peça lírica há muitos anos, via Solti. Como Carlo(s), também eu me encontrava preso a um amor impossível…
Solti enferma de um defeito incontornável, a meu ver: uma Elisabete fatigada e desgastada, em final de carreira, Renata Tebaldi (por quem jamais nutri grande admiração artística, como é bem sabido).
Foi por ocasião da extraordinária encenação de Bondy, no Châtelet, que a ópera ecoou em mim de modo avassalador. De então em diante, tenho travado conhecimento com algumas interpretações, de entre as quais recordo a de Giulini (aqui comentada), que constitui uma das mais perfeitas realizações artísticas que conheço.
Antecipando o grande acontecimento que terá lugar a 11 do corrente mês, na Gulbenkian, via Met Opera House, eis a crítica da première da produção Nicholas Hytner de Don Carlo, na sala nova-iorquina:
«Though not without flaws, Verdi’s “Don Carlo” is the “Hamlet” of Italian opera. Every production of this profound and challenging work is a major venture for an opera company. The Metropolitan Opera has to be pleased, over all, with its new staging by the eminent English director Nicholas Hytner in his company debut, which opened on Monday and earned an enthusiastic ovation. No booing of the production team on this premiere night.
The cast is mostly excellent. Roberto Alagna sings the touchstone title role, and this gifted tenor, who has gone through periods of shaky singing and made some ill-considered career moves, sounds better than he has in 10 years. The big news may have been the conducting by Yannick Nézet-Séguin, the 35-year-old Canadian designated to become the music director of the Philadelphia Orchestra. “Don Carlo” is a sizable assignment, literally. The opera, first presented in Paris in 1867, is performed here in its five-act version in Italian, basically Verdi’s final 1886 revision of this much-revised score. With two intermissions, the performance lasted four and a half hours.
But Mr. Nézet-Séguin, who made his Met debut last season with an exciting if impetuous “Carmen,” drew a richly textured, inexorably paced and vividly characterized account of Verdi’s epic score from the great Met orchestra. His excitement sometimes got the better of him. In a few arias with undulant accompaniment patterns he needed a phrase or two to find the groove and get with his singers. But he is a born communicator who brought youthful passion and precocious insight to his work.
New productions are always grist for debate in the opera world. But it is hard to imagine what opera buffs might object to in this one, a co-production with the Royal Opera in London (presented there in 2008) and the Norwegian National Opera and Ballet. Mr. Hytner’s impressively fluid staging places the cast in evocative period costumes (by Bob Crowley) against the backdrops of spare, modern-looking sets (also by Mr. Crowley).
If there is nothing very daring about the production, it is alive with striking images. The ominous monastery of San Yuste in Spain is framed by looming black walls with rows of square windows through which crisscrossing shafts of sunlight shine. The scene in the public square where heretics are tormented by the crowd is played before an ornate gold church and culminates with the glimpse of bodies on a flaming pyre in the background. No regietheater metaphorical nonsense here.
Verdi’s opera, adapted from a dramatic poem by Schiller, plays loose with the history of Philip II of Spain, who in an attempt to forge peace with France decides to marry Elisabeth, the daughter of Henry II, who had been intended for Philip’s son and heir, Don Carlo. Crowd scenes and spectacle were requisite for opera in Paris, and Verdi supplied them. Still, at its core the opera is a family drama, a story of powerful people made pawns during a time of religious fanaticism, who feel alienated from their inner selves.
The member of the cast who best exemplified the Italianate Verdi style was the bass Ferruccio Furlanetto, as Philip. The king is the opera’s most psychologically complex character. Marrying Elisabeth is not just a political maneuver but also the rash act of an older man who feels threatened by his dreamy, idealistic son. Philip is understandably paranoid, since the real authority in his realm is the ruthless Grand Inquisitor.
Mr. Furlanetto brought aching expressivity and stentorian sound to the scene in which Philip, in his lonely study at night, is overcome with anguish as he confronts the reality of his life: a young wife who has never loved him; a rebellious, contemptuous son; subjects who fear him.
The lovely Russian soprano Marina Poplavskaya, as Elisabeth, does not have a classic Verdi voice. Still, with her luminous singing, beautiful pianissimo high notes and unforced power, she was a noble, elegant Elisabeth. Somehow the cool Russian colorings of her voice brought out the apartness of the character, a young woman in a loveless marriage in a foreign land.
The duty-bound Elisabeth has just a few hours of joy, in Act I, the Fontainebleau scene. Carlo tracks down Elisabeth in France to see the woman he is supposed to marry. When they meet, they have an extended duet of blissful lyricism, which these young lovers relish. How could Verdi ever have sanctioned a version of this opera without the Fontainebleau act?
Born in France of Italian heritage, Mr. Alagna knows both styles intimately. His past problems have been not for want of style but for unreliable technique. He seems to have worked things out in recent years. In a few phrases he sounded leathery and rough, and he took a while to steady himself vocally in the opening scene. Still, much of his signing was poignant, ardent and supplely phrased.
For someone so good-looking and charismatic, Mr. Alagna can be surprisingly awkward onstage, as he was at times here, especially during solo scenes, when he looked stiff. But whenever he was joined by the baritone Simon Keenlyside, who sang Rodrigo, the Marquis of Posa and Carlo’s devoted friend, Mr. Alagna opened up in every way. Mr. Keenlyside is one of the most natural actors in opera. His Rodrigo is a naïve hothead out to win Carlo to the cause of the oppressed people of Flanders. Vocally, Mr. Keenlyside is no beefy Verdi baritone, and there was occasional effort in his singing. But the vocal resonance and emotional integrity of his performance made him an affecting Rodrigo.
The weak link was the Russian mezzo-soprano Anna Smirnova, in her Met debut, as Princess Eboli, though weak is hardly the word to describe her go-for-broke singing. Her sound was enormous, but there was too much raw bellowing. Eboli, a dark beauty who has been the king’s mistress, is a seductress but also a victim. She should be sultry, not blowsy.
The bass Eric Halfvarson was at once terrifying and pitiable as the blind, frail, avenging Grand Inquisitor. The soprano Layla Claire, in her Met debut, was an impish, bright-voiced Tebaldo, Elisabeth’s page. Alexei Tanovitsky, a bass in his Met debut, was an aptly chilling Friar, confronting the distraught Carlo in an early scene, then reappearing in the last confusing moment of the opera, when Carlo is attacked by Philip and his soldiers near the tomb of Charles V.
In Mr. Hytner’s intriguing staging of this scene, Carlo is badly wounded. The Friar, whose voice sounds to the Grand Inquisitor eerily like that of the dead emperor Charles, hovers over the prince. Does the Friar merely beckon Don Carlo into the cloister or invite him to cross over into the beyond? It’s the most mystifying moment of this Verdi masterpiece. »