×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Don Carlo

Nicholas Hytner and Bob Crowley make a spectacular leap to the opera stage.

With:
Don Carlo - Roberto Alagna Elisabeth - Marina Poplavskaya Rodrigo -Simon Keenlyside Philip II-Ferruccio Furlanetto Princess of Eboli - Anna Smirnova Grand Inquisitor - Eric Halfvarson

Nicholas Hytner and Bob Crowley, two legit stalwarts, make a spectacular leap to the opera stage with the Met’s new production of “Don Carlo,” first seen at Covent Garden last year. With the genius of Verdi and the resources of two big opera houses at their disposal, director and designer have unleashed something here that will astound those acquainted only with their Broadway work. You’ve heard about total theater? This is it.

Let some opera experts prefer his “Otello” or “Falstaff”; “Don Carlo” is Verdi’s supreme masterwork with its six — count ’em, six — full-blooded characters in the grandest human drama that finds another of the composer’s heroines choosing duty to country over personal happiness. In love with Don Carlo (Robert Alagna), Elisabeth of France (Marina Poplavskaya) chooses instead to marry his father, King Philip II of Spain (Ferruccio Furlanetto), to keep the peace, unleashing the jealous fury of a rival, Eboli (Anna Smirnova), and the wrath of the Grand Inquisitor (Eric Halfvarson), as Carlo’s friend and peacemaker Rodrigo (Simon Keenlyside) gets sacrificed in the process. That’s a lot of story, but there’s even more great music.

Crowley, who also designed the sumptuous costumes, creates several visually unique stage pictures — from the winter fantasy of Fontainebleau to the gloomy monastery of St. Just to the garish Valladolid Cathedral, scene of the ghastly auto-de-fe — and yet the whole production is of one simple, almost stark stylistic piece. He’s much aided here by Mark Henderson’s lighting, which turns trees, hedges and pillars into ominous monoliths.

Some operagoers prefer the four-act version of “Don Carlo,” which begins after Carlo and Elisabeth have met and fallen in love at Fontainebleau. In this five-acter, Hytner takes that love-at-first-sight story and gives it convincing life. Rodgers & Hammerstein needed their conditional love duet to get the romantic juices flowing, but not Verdi and Hytner. Their two leads are young and in love the second they meet, and the rest is tragedy as Elisabeth is soon forced to choose the king, leaving Carlo alone.

Again and again in this production, Hytner and Crowley isolate Carlo at a scene’s conclusion, often creating masterful silent segues to the next act as candle-carrying monks or corpse-bearing soldiers direct our attention forward.

When the Met first presented “Don Carlo” in 1950, Roman Catholics protested. Hytner, to his credit, reawakens that outrage with an auto-de-fe scene that stuns with a chorus of priests, cardinals and other unholy human animals who gouge out eyes and burn the innocent at the stake. Remember Hytner’s helicopter in “Miss Saigon”? He tops it with this act-three fire storm.

But “Don Carlo” is nothing without a great tenor to deliver the title role. Fortunately, the Met has Alagna, whose tangy tenor possesses just the right dash of acid to bring expressive power to the doomed prince. Furlanetto has a few miles on his bass, and every foot of that vocal journey only gives authority to his interpretation of the weariest despot on earth. The very full-throated Smirnova presents a raucous and vulgar Eboli. Much more elegant is Keenlyside, but even in this lightest of Verdi baritone roles, he is overtaxed, especially in his act-two confrontation with Philip. Poplavskaya lets go with some great high notes and her voice dominate the ensembles, but she has trouble negotiating the passaggio and by evening’s end she had noticeably tired, cutting short several phrases. If conductor Yannick Nezet-Seguin lacks some of the finesse of James Levine when it comes to this opera, he substitutes with plenty of drive and fire.

“Don Carlo” clocks in at 4 1/2 hours. Thanks to Verdi, Hytner and Crowley, it’s the fastest show in town.

Don Carlo

Metropolitan Opera, New York City; 3,800 seats, $375 top

Production: A Metropolitan Opera presentation of an opera in five acts by Giuseppe Verdi, Francois Joseph Mery and Camille du Locle. Directed by Nicholas Hytner. Conductor, Yannick Nezet-Seguin.

Creative: Sets and costumes, Bob Crowley; lighting, Mark Henderson. Opened, reviewed Nov. 22, 2010. Running time: 4 HOURS, 30 MIN.

Cast: Don Carlo - Roberto Alagna Elisabeth - Marina Poplavskaya Rodrigo -Simon Keenlyside Philip II-Ferruccio Furlanetto Princess of Eboli - Anna Smirnova Grand Inquisitor - Eric Halfvarson

More Legit

  • Hillary and Clinton review

    Broadway Review: Laurie Metcalf and John Lithgow in 'Hillary and Clinton'

    If anyone could play Hillary Clinton, it’s Laurie Metcalf – and here she is, in Lucas Hnath’s “Hillary and Clinton,” giving a performance that feels painfully honest and true. And if anyone could capture Bill Clinton’s feckless but irresistible charm, that would be John Lithgow – and here he is, too. Who better to work [...]

  • Hadestown review

    Broadway Review: 'Hadestown'

    “Hadestown” triggered a lot of buzz when this wholly American show (which came to the stage by way of a concept album) premiered at Off Broadway’s New York Theatre Workshop in 2016. Arriving on Broadway with its earthly delights more or less intact, this perfectly heavenly musical — with book, music and lyrics by Anaïs [...]

  • Burn This review

    Broadway Review: Adam Driver, Keri Russell in 'Burn This'

    The ache for an absent artist permeates Lanford Wilson’s “Burn This,” now receiving a finely-tuned Broadway revival that features incendiary performances by Adam Driver and Keri Russell, playing two lost souls in a powerful and passionate dance of denial. AIDS is never mentioned in this 1987 play, yet the epidemic and the profound grief that [...]

  • White Noise Suzan-Lori Parks

    Listen: The 'Dumb Joke' Hidden in 'White Noise'

    Suzan-Lori Parks’ new play “White Noise” tackles a host of urgent, hot-button topics, including racism and slavery — but, according to the playwright, there’s also a “dumb joke” buried in it. Listen to this week’s podcast below: Appearing with “White Noise” director Oskar Eustis on “Stagecraft,” Variety‘s theater podcast, Parks revealed that the inspiration for [...]

  • Adam Driver appears at the curtain

    Adam Driver on Starring in 'Burn This' for a Second Time

    The Hudson Theatre’s new production of “Burn This” marks its first Broadway revival since it premiered on the Great White Way in 1987, but Adam Driver is no stranger to the work. He starred as Pale in a Juilliard production of the Lanford Wilson drama when he was still a student — and only now, [...]

  • Alan Wasser

    Alan Wasser, Tony-Winning Broadway General Manager, Dies at 70

    Alan Wasser, a veteran Broadway general manager who received an honorary Tony Award, died from complications from Parkinson’s disease in New York on Sunday. He was 70. Wasser founded Alan Wasser Associates and general managed “Les Misérables,” “The Phantom of the Opera” and “Miss Saigon,” three of the most successful productions of all time. He [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content