Richard and I saw *Don Carlos* at the Met on March 22, 2022. It's a Verdi opera that I love and had seen three times before, including two previous productions at the Met (both with Richard). Verdi wrote the opera on a commission from the Paris Opera. Of course it was in French but it was quickly translated into Italian and is almost always done in the Italian version. This was the first time the Met had done it in the original French. Don't get too comfortable, because they're going back to the (reputedly inferior) Italian version next season...
This is quite the multicultural experience, this show - - the story takes place in Spain (Phillip II and the Spanish Inquisition), it's based on a play by a German writer (Friedrich von Schiller, this was Verdi's fourth and last Schiller adaptation), written by an Italian composer in French. It's Verdi's longest and grandest opera, full of his genius balance of spectacle and intimacy.
I was a little cranky to see that the Met was doing a new production of this so soon when their previous production was very strong and had only been done in three previous seasons. This is what they're spending their money on? But I guess they wanted to have a big to-do for the French version and probably the star singers were lured by a flashy new production, they wouldn't have been so jazzed up for a retread of the 2010 production. You might say, "Why would I care?" but as a donor to the Met, I do really have a dog in that fight.
Thankfully the production was very good. The director was David McVicar, a favorite at the Met. This is his eleventh new production since 2009 and I've seen them all except for *Julius Caesar* (I haven't been into the people who were singing that show). He knows how to deliver the goods - - his productions are always beautiful to look at, insightful, and straightforward. I imagine they're easy for another director in a revival to do a year or so later. Best of all, he doesn't shy away from the staginess and phoniness of an opera. He gets the right tone, he knows that it's unrealistic but does the heightened vibe in an honest way.
We had two cast replacements the night we went. One was the conductor - - it was supposed to have been Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin, but our performance was conducted by Patrick Furrer, who made his Met debut last May. He did a great job. He kept it all together, the music crackled and was full of drama and variety. I wonder if we'll be seeing more from him.
The title role was played by Matthew Polenzani. I have a soft spot for this guy because he started at the Met as a singer in the Lindemann Young Artist Development Program, their apprentice program and I heard him in lots of small roles when I first moved here, most memorably in a one-aria role in *Les Troyens.* He gradually got bigger and bigger roles and is now one of their leading tenors, doing new productions. He was fantastic, singing with his signature aching lyricism and a nice bit of heft when needed.
The leading lady was Sonya Yoncheva, probably my favorite soprano on the scene right now. Her second aria, near the end of the show (and it's a long show, four and a half hours long), is a real tour de force. It's long, with a bit of everything. She knocked the ball out of the park with that aria. Her other aria, early in the opera, was ravishingly beautiful.
Phillip II was to have been played by Eric Owens. I heard him do this role in DC years ago and wasn't really wowed by his performance, so I wasn't exactly heartsick to see that someone else was doing our performance. We heard Matthew Rose, a youngish English bass. He was good but something about his singing bugged me - - he seemed to either sing with no vibrato or with a lot of vibrato. I prefer a more even sound. Thank you.
The second female lead was powerhouse mezzo Jamie Barton. She was also in that production in DC and holy crap she's amazing. She had the delicacy needed for the first aria and the whole package for the second aria. That second aria is one of my favorite arias ever, "O don fatale" ("O don fatal" in French). Here she is singing it in Italian in (ahem) Moscow in 2016:
The real find of the evening was Canadian baritone Étienne Dupuis as Rodrigue, the Marquis of Posa. Gorgeous singing, wow he was something else. This production seemed to make more of the character than I'd seen before and Dupuis certainly made the most of it. I hope to hear him many more times, he's a very special singer. Here he is doing "Per me giunto" and his death scene (again, in Italian) in Paris in 2019: