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Opernwelt 5/1979

A feast of singers

Verdi's "Don Carlos" at the Salzburg Easter Festival


English Translation © Maria Kozlova

Herbert von Karajan who led the Easter Festival this year with his usual energy and concentration has always been a master of economy. He took a rest before the demanding new production of Wagner's "Parsifal" next year and as an Easter present gave Verdi's "Don Carlos", that under his leadership triumphed at Summer Festivals. His "Don Carlos", celebrated since 1975, made a stop on its way to Vienna so to say, where it was going to be the culmination of "Karajan weeks" at the Staatsoper. In the old-new Salzburg environment "Don Carlos" remains a feast of great singers and of a conductor of genius, for the Verdi orchestra under Karajan receives a new quality, like it was at the new production of Aida in Munich under Muti. Karajan lets his excellent instrument - the Berlin  Philharmonic - play the central part in the Carlos drama. He puts it forward exceedingly, almost damaging the singers' voices, but also brings the orchestra and soloists together in a chamber consonance, like in the farewell duet of Elisabeth and Carlos in the fourth act. Moments like these add a festive air to this Festival. There is hardly a theater where one can see Verdi's "Don Carlos" in a musical interpretation of such standard, extremely convincing and making one forget imperfections of production, and see the scenic interpretation as quantité negligeable.


The star of the evening was Agnes Baltsa who sang her brilliant princess Eboli part for the first time. She was an extraordinary Eboli, a princess whose ambition seems quite commensurable, a royal of a passionate and impetuous temperament. The stage presence and singing quality of Mrs. Baltsa in the role of this unhappy and desperate woman who yields to her fate only at the last moment, sets new standards for this part. Her great aria in the third act, "O don fatale", with its varied interpretation showing feelings from despair and wild desire to life-giving remembrance takes on the dimension Verdi probably dreamed of: it becomes a summing up of a life, a psychologram of an extreme state of mind.  Jose Carreras' Don Carlos is full of youthful ardor and ready to give everything for the sake of his ideals, love and friendship. Piero Cappuccilli, one of the greatest Verdi singers of all times, as Posa portrays a noble Spanish grandee with the marvelous timbre of his voice resembling a precious, non-material sound of a Guarneri cello.  The singular artist Mirella Freni keeps her high standard in the role of Elisabeth for many years. Nicolai Ghiaurov as King Philip represents an unbridled, a little Boris-like ruler. His rival in the fight for authority, the Grand Inquisitor, through the noble sound of Jules Bastin radiates paternal dignity, rather than severity and inexorability. Jose van Dam sang the small but important part of Karl V without false pathos.


Verdi, "Don Carlos"

Performance attended on 8 April 1979

Artistic director: Herbert von Karajan

Scenery: Günther Schneider-Siemssen

Costume designer: Georges Wakhevitch


Nicolai Ghiaurov (Philip II)

José Carreras (Don Carlos)

Piero Cappuccilli (Rodrigo)

Jules Bastin (Great Inquisitor)

José van Dam (Karl V)

Mirella Freni (Elisabeth)

Agnes Baltsa (Eboli)

Marjon Lambriks (Tebaldo)

Walburga Wallner (countess Aremberg)

Horst Nitsche (count Lerma)

Marjorie Vance (Voice from heaven)

Walter Fink, Serje Kopcák, Chigusa Tomita, Klaus Wallprecht,

Peter Weber (deputies from Flanders)


Original German article by Imre Fabian