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Commemorating a Protestant Victory

Grand Théâtre
09/23/2002 -  and 25, 27 30 September, 2, 4, 8 October 2002
Giuseppe Verdi: Don Carlos
Olga Guryakova (Elisabeth de Valois), Irina Mishura (Princess Eboli), Gidon Saks (Philip II), Octavio Arevalo, Kaludi Kaludov (Don Carlos), Victor Torres (Grand Inquisitor)
Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, Evelino Pidò (Conductor), Choir of the Grand Théâtre de Genève, Ching-Lien Wu. (Choir Master)
Patrice Caurier and Moshe Leiser (Producers).

The choice of Don Carlos to begin the 2002-2003 operatic season in Geneva is not a mere coincidence. The citizens of this town are celebrating this year the 400th anniversary (1602) of the heroic siege of the Calvinist Rome by a catholic monarch, Charles-Emmanuel of Savoy, who was, in fact, the son in law of Philip II of Spain. But one has to underline that Philip II did not support, till the end of his life (1598), his son in laws views on Geneva.

When the curtains slide, we discover a minimalist set that is becoming somewhat a tradition in Geneva, though, again, very cleverly thought: two walls of different colours slide from one side to another and project the shadows - specially the inquisitors one - on the wall in a gigantic way.

The autodafe scene reveals all the pump and mannerism of a Spanish renaissance celebration like thecelebration of a victorious battle against impiety. King Philip appears sitting on a throne highly pitched on a dark red wall, with meters of velvet, overlooking the pyres, his courtiers and the members of the high clergy who are all clad in colourful renaissance robes. All this is faithful to Verdi’s intentions, the effect is to be grandioso.

Irina Mishura (Eboli) sings the veil dance with true elegance avoiding the exaggerated vibratos. Olga Guryakova (Elisabeth) is simply extraordinary. Her voice is gentle and full of emotion in the aria “non pianger,…” the orchestra accompanies her gently, under the baton of Evelino Pidó, always conscious of her soprano voice. Or in her duos with Kaludov (Don Carlos) she translates her resistance to the young prince and thus her suffering. Gidon Sykes is magnificent in his monologue “Dormiro sol…“, he is seen trying to sleep in his bed tortured by the idea that his wife loves Don Carlos instead of his royal self. He translates the profoundly human suffering of the most powerful king of his time. Then the Grand inquisitor comes in to give him the solution to his problem: inquisition and condemnation of his unfaithful son. Two great bass voices compete in this energetic duo.

If there is one critique it would be the choir that was lacking in number and amplitude. Verdi puts hundreds of chorus-singers on stage; which is difficult to do, but at least they should sing more loudly to give the impression of crowds.

Zoltan Bécsi



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