VERDI: Don Carlo
Verdi’s Don Carlo was one of the few operas that Herbert von Karajan conducted time and again over several decades – in the 1950s, ’70s and ’80s at the Salzburg Festival, and in 1979/80 in Vienna in his own production, “imported” from Salzburg. In this live recording of May 1979 from the Vienna State Opera we can now hear Karajan’s Don Carlo with an absolute dream team. Together with the chorus and orchestra of the Vienna State Opera, Karajan brilliantly explores the contrasts between the private and the public conflicts that are particularly characteristic of this work, especially in the four-act version that he preferred. Karajan had his ideal ensemble of singers at his disposal in Vienna: Mirella Freni as Elisabetta had already played a major part in this production’s success in Salzburg. She repeated her triumph in Vienna, offering a prime example of Verdi singing with a faultless line and just the right flexibility between lyrical and dramatic expression. José Carreras sang the title role of Elisabetta’s unlucky lover. His brilliant timbre and introvert expression were perfectly suited to his character, so full of hope and yet so hopelessly dependent on himself alone. His only friend Posa was sung by the leading Italian baritone of the day, Piero Cappuccilli. Just like Mirella Freni in Karajan’s Don Carlo ensemble, he too was regarded at the time as without peer in his role, and with good reason. Agnes Baltsa gave her debut as Eboli, and her mezzosoprano voice possessed both the lightness of touch necessary for her “Song of the veil” at the outset, and the power needed for her dramatic closing aria. Ruggero Raimondi might have been somewhat young at the time for his role as Philipp II, but he naturally made one forget the fact completely when one heard his superb vocal expression and his art of musical characterization. And also with Matti Salminen as the Grand Inquisitor we can hear a bass who in 1979 was at an early highpoint in his career, and who would remain at the peak of his profession for many years to come.