|Act III of the John Dexter Don Carlo at the Met.|
Photo from OperaChic.
The only break in all this darkness came in the second scene of Act II. The auto da fé (where King Philip celebrates his authority by having few sinners burned alive by the Inquisition) took place under blue skies and blood-red banners blowing in the breeze. The bright sound of the chorus, singing in celebration as the pyres were lit, underlined the chilling authority of the Catholic church, a central message of Verdi's darkest opera.
Don Carlo is a long opera--Verdi's longest, in fact. Written as a French grand opera, it's five acts with a ballet and a complete recording of the score clocks in at five hours. Most opera houses slash the whole first act, moving the tenor's big number up to Act II and presenting a four-act torso. But the Dexter/Met staging restored the entire first act, putting the tenor arioso "Io lo vidi" in its proper dramatic context.
|Act III of the Hytner Don Carlo as staged at Covent Garden.|
Photo from MostlyOpera.
Now, a bunch of woodcutters may not sound like much. Truth is, they have little to do with the rest of the opera. Verdi himself (citing reasons of length) cut the scene before the opera's Paris premiere. But seeing the opera with the woodcutters scene restored, the bizarre choice made by Isabella (to marry Philip even though she is in love with Don Carlo, his son) makes dramatic sense. The people are freezing and starving, and she has to put her country ahead of her personal life.
Don't get me wrong. I'm looking forward to seeing this production on Monday night. And I might go more than once if it proves itself to be worthy. But I'll miss that old Don Carlo and I'm sorry to see this classic production retired and replaced.
Besides, I've heard that the new staging cuts out the woodcutters.