Notes and Editorial Reviews
The performance under review may lack star power, but five of the six leads are francophone, either from France or from Canada, so that the French text receives its due with none of the disfiguring vowel sounds that too often tarnish French-language performances. Edith Tremblay makes a touching Elisabeth, with sound musical instincts
John Matheson, cond; Edith Tremblay (
); Michelle Vilma (
); Gillian Knight (
); Prudence Lloyd (
Voix d’en haut
); André Turp (
); Robert Savoie (
); Joseph Rouleau (
); Richard Van Allan (
); Robert Lloyd (
); Emile Belcourt (
); Geoffrey Shovelton (
); BBC Singers; BBC Concert O
OPERA RARA ORCV 305 (4 CDs: 231:16
Here at last is a recording of
in its first version, as performed at the Paris Opera in 1867, reinstating some additional passages that the composer cut prior to the premiere so that suburbanites could get the last train home. Two of these sections have gained currency in recent years, the opening chorus for the woodcutters and the Philippe-Carlos lament after the death of Rodrigue. These sections, along with a duet for Elisabeth and Eboli, were not included in the score published at the time. The remaining differences are striking, particularly in three sections that were rewritten, thereby gaining in concision with even more striking musical ideas. The famous duet for Carlos and Rodrigue has a much lengthier introduction, with even more exposition, but here Verdi cuts to the chase. The duet between Philippe and Rodrigue originally followed the standard pattern, with a cabaletta close that in places almost borders on the trivial, but the more conversational form with which we are familiar is replete with invention. Both are even longer on the recording than in the score as a result of the excisions imposed on the composer. The quartet for Elisabeth, Eboli, Rodrigue, and Philippe has minor adjustments to the vocal lines that change the dynamic of the interchange. The lengthy scene between Elisabeth and Eboli prior to the latter’s final aria makes explicit the relations between the two women and the men they love.
This is a far cry from the mix-and-match version put together for the Théâtre du Châtelet available on both CD and DVD. The resulting hodge-podge, despite some excellent performances, does not enlighten us as to the composer’s intentions, however much Andrew Porter may proclaim that it is a legitimate version, as Verdi never officially produced a definitive score. I would disagree, to the extent that Verdi subsequently produced the four-act version, and acquiesced when the first act was reinstated, so that we have the so-called Modena score. That version was recorded in French with Claudio Abbado and the Scala forces, but was sung in a sort of pidgin French by a largely Italian cast so that any benefit to be gained from using the original text was negated.
The performance under review may lack star power, but five of the six leads are francophone, either from France or from Canada, so that the French text receives its due with none of the disfiguring vowel sounds that too often tarnish French-language performances. Edith Tremblay makes a touching Elisabeth, with sound musical instincts, even when her voice may not have the requisite velvet or power. Michelle Vilma does not find the coloratura of the Veil Song congenial, but comes into her own with “O don fatal,” but she is in excellent company in that respect. André Turp is occasionally hard-pressed at the top of his voice, but like Tremblay, his musico-dramatic instincts are convincing. Joseph Rouleau uses his black bass voice to good effect as Philippe, while Richard Van Allan’s Inquisiteur offers steely opposition. Only the rough-and-ready baritone of Robert Savoie (Rodrigue) is out of place here, the effort far too audible. John Matheson’s reading of the score may lack the inflections of a Giulini or Abbado, but his instincts are sound. Would that the BBC had had more faith in the project in 1972 by placing a better orchestra at his disposal. The knife-edge sound is not the best in this series, but the excitement of hearing
as originally conceived makes this recording essential listening.
FANFARE: Joel Kasow
Works on This Recording
Don Carlos by Giuseppe Verdi
Edith Tremblay (Soprano),
Michelle Vilma (Mezzo Soprano),
Robert Savoie (Baritone),
André Turp (Tenor),
Joseph Rouleau (Bass)
BBC Concert Orchestra,
Notes: Composition written: Paris, France (03/11/1867).
Composition revised: Naples, Italy (1872).
Composition revised: La Scala Opera House, Milan, Italy (01/10/1884).
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