This joint production with the Royal Opera and the Norwegian National Opera and Ballet, by English Director Nicholas Hytner looked and sounded excellent. Of course some of the sets were dark and brooding, but that suits the mood of the show. And of course, the Spanish Court wears mostly black, but that makes the red costumes worn by the Grand Inqusitor and by the King and Queen in the auto-de-fe scene leap out. Princess Elizabeth’s transition from the light gold of her unmarried state to the sober black of the Queen of Spain is also striking.
The plot is a fanciful take on the life of Carlo, Prince of Asturias, eldest son of Phillip II of Spain, who in reality had a sad, short, and sorry life. The story, based upon a play by Friedrich Schiller, makes the unhappy Prince a hero of romance. Disappointed in love when the King of France decides to betroth his beloved Princess Elisabeth to Carlo’s widowed father, King Phillip, Carlo, lead by his friend, the Marquise of Posa, decides to sublimate his passion into supporting the cause of freedom for the Protestant Flemings, who are currently in rebellion against their Spanish Catholic overlords. This brings Carlo into conflict not only with his tyrannical father, but also the dreaded Spanish Inquisition, which is intent on crushing the Flemish heretics. Being a drama, there’s a lot of musical sturm und drang, leading up to a famously ambiguous ending (although not, in this version, as ambiguous as some--).
The Metropolitan Opera orchestra was marvelously lead by young conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin, a French-Canadian, and supported a truly international cast: Roberto Alagna (France) in the physically and vocally demanding title role; Marina Poplavskaya, as Elisabeth (Russia); Ferruccio Furlanetto, as Philip (Italy); Simon Keenlyside as the Marquise of Posa (Britain); Eric Halfvarson as the Grand Inquisitor (United States); and back to Russia for Anna Smirnova as Princess Eboli.
All the singing was beautiful; the acting not always so. Alagna, though vigorous, is a bit uneven in his level of characterization. The ladies tend to let their voices carry the action, except in a few crucial moments. Otherwise they are overshadowed by the veterans: Phillip’s conflict in seeking absolution for ordering the death of his son; Posa’s revolutionary zeal; and the terrifying blind force of destruction that is the Grand Inquisitor.
All in all a great, if long, afternoon at the Opera.
This entry was originally posted at http://sinister-sigils.dreamwidth.org/176813.html. Please comment there using OpenID.