GIUSEPPE PENNISI visits
revitalised Verdi Festival
in Parma for 'Don Carlo'
After a few lackluster
years, in Parma the October VerdiFestival appears to be born again: Three operas are on the program, along with concerts, seminars, shows, plays and music for children to celebrate Giuseppe Verdi. As the festival does not receive any special
contribution from central government, about a million euros were raised through
crowfunding. Also, intense marketing abroad showed its results: the city is full of foreign visitors.
Several small revisions
were made in translations for Italian and Germanstheatres. Eventually, in 1884, Verdi made a new four act
version for La Scala ('A Complex Plot',
17 April 2013). Named the 'La Scala
Don Carlo' (with Italianized name of the protagonist), this is the edition generally performed in Italy and seen in Parma on 1 October. In 1886, Verdi
went back to the opera and re-introduced the first act; this version,
called 'Modena Don Carlo', is often performed in the USA and in Germany and occasionally in Italy. In a few months'
time at La Scala, this version can be experienced in a recent Salzburg Festival production.
For this 'reborn' Verdi
Festival, the La Scala 1884 four act version was chosen for reasons of duration
and cost. Also to contain the length, the opera was presented in two
parts with only a short intermission between the second and the third
act. Nonetheless, the performance started at 7.30pm and ended at almost midnight.
Then a buffet dinner was offered to some two hundreds guests and
journalists in the very attractive Teatro Region foyer.
The direction was much awaited because it was entrusted to
Cesare Lievi (a well known director often bordering on the avant garde). Sets and costumes were signed by another well-known artist: Maurizio Balò. An additional challenge is that the staging is co-produced with other
theatres (Genoa's Carlo Felice, Lisbon's Sao Carlos, Tenerife's
Opera), each with different size and design. In my view, the objective of
an 'adaptable' stage machinery is fully reached. The sets and the props
are grey and white; the costumes, black and grey. The attire reflects
Verdi's times rather than the Spanishsiglo de oro. The basic concept is
that the Royal Court is in mourning (for the disappearance of Emperor
Charles V). Even though a 'black-and-white' Don Carlo has its charm, this
is too simple a concept to capture a complexplot of power, love,
conflicts and friendship. Lievi does not chose a dominant theme and,
probably as a result, the acting is
somewhat wanting. As the opera is on stage in Parma until 11 October 2016
and then tours to other theatres, this aspect can yet be made good.
Daniel Oren was the conductor. He
performed better than on the other recent occasions I observed him (when
he seemed like a routinier). The ToscaniniOrchestra
provided the right black, bleakatmosphere for
the opera. The chorus, directed by Marino Fagiani,
In the voices
department, Michele Pertusi was a real triumph in his debut as King
Philip II: he can be both imposing and tender (with his son, his wife, his
mistress, and his son's best friend) as
well as shy in front of the Great Inquisitor.
José Bros is making a
transition from coloratura roles
(where he excelled for nearly twenty years, especially in Donizetti's
operas) to Verdian tenor
parts. In my opinion, his
register is still too high, but he has plenty of volume.