In the monumental, hour-long opera Don Carlo, two female characters take an unprecedented journey through Verdi’s 28 operas. There are no witches here. No courtesans cough. Her only two real people in history were involved in a love triangle that rocked 16th-century Spain.
And the 2008 Nicholas Hytner reenactment by the Royal Opera (Six performances from June 30th to July 15th) features two of the world’s top female singers. Norwegian soprano Lise Davidsen makes her debut as Elisabeth of Valois.she for her and Yulia MatkinaRussian mezzo-soprano singer, is your chance to delve into two of Verdi’s most complex and fully realized female characters.
“Don Carlo” is based on the play by Friedrich Schiller. It depicts the real-life Prince Don Carlo of Spain and Elisabeth of Valois, the French princess, who are secretly in love despite being engaged to his father, King Philip II of Spain. Princess Eboli also loves Carlo, but she threatens to expose her affair. And Carlo’s beloved friend Rodrigo has his own tricks. It all unfolds against the grim backdrop of the Spanish Inquisition.
From Carlo and Rodrigo’s duet (one of the rare tenor-baritone duets in opera) to the Grand Inquisitor’s famous bass aria that culminates in the opera’s menacing tone, the male characters tell expansive stories. often dominate the But for many, it is the women who propel the story forward and provide perhaps the richest characterization in Verdi’s repertoire.
“One thing to remember about all Verdi’s operas is what Verdi learned from Victor Hugo: conflict is at the heart of characterization,” says author Susan Rutherford. 2013 book “Verdi, Opera, Women” said in a phone interview. “That idea dominates most of his work. Whether it’s Aida or Don Carlo, I think the women are very well rounded. One is good and the other is bad.” It’s not melodramatic.”
Verdi’s interpretation of Hugo’s work — ‘Rigoletto’ is based on Hugo’s 1832 play Le roi s’amuse, or ‘The King amuses himself’ — and other writers of the 18th and 19th centuries The reason for such rich character of his work influenced by. It’s something that both Davidsen and Matochkina recognize about their respective roles, as they said in an interview at the Royal Opera during the first week of rehearsals in early June.
“While Schiller’s plays deal with political and social conflicts and palace intrigues, his operas focus primarily on the characters,” he said at several major opera houses, including the Metropolitan Opera. Ms. Matochkina, who sang the role, said: “Enchanted women use their beauty and charm to influence politics. Rumors that Princess Eboli was in love with the king and betrayed his trust are reflected in the opera, She paid the price and suffered in every sense of the word.”
No matter how fictionalized Schiller, Verdi, and his librettists, the feeling of portraying a moment in history is part of the excitement for both singers. Davidsen, she said, sympathized with Elizabeth’s plight as she was torn between the king who had to marry her beloved prince.
“Most of us are not familiar with forced marriage, but we do know that it exists. I am,” she said, referring to England and her native Norway. “We’re not royals, but we see from the outside what it takes to be a public person and how it’s managed by so many others.”
That dominance, and the dominance of the Catholic Church in one of its darkest times, is at the heart of Don Carlo, and the female characters respond accordingly.
“I would say that both women have pushed the boundaries of what is expected of a nice girl, but ultimately both find a more lenient sense of their rivals,” Rutherford said. “Verdi’s female characters are in some ways stronger than their male counterparts.”
Written by Verdi in 1867, ‘Don Carlo’ preceded his astonishing works including ‘Aida’, ‘Otello’ and his last opera ‘Falstaff’. tragic opera.
For Ms. Rutherford, the female characters in “Don Carlo” are not simply the product of centuries of male intrigue.
“I think it’s important that we don’t just look at them with our eyes,” she said. “We can look back at these operas and squeeze our hands, but initial audiences saw these women as having different strengths and weaknesses.”
Davidsen will make his debut not only in the role of Elisabeth but also in Verdi’s opera. She covered the role of Desdemona in “Otello” while studying at the Opera Academy of the Royal Danish Academy of Music in Copenhagen, and was due to sing “Um Baro in Maskera” in Oslo in 2021, but that performance will be next. Canceled for a reason. COVID. She’d sung Don Carlo’s famous aria “Tu che le vanita” a few times in concert, but it still felt a little daunting to jump into Elisabeth’s position. Part of the attraction to the Royal Opera production sung in Italian was that it was a five-act, four-hour or longer version (Verdi and the librettist wrote several versions in French and Italian). (I wrote it, but at least one part is omitted) Act One, where Elizabeth is hunting in the woods and has a little time to frolic before the palace intrigues begin. )
“I like the five-act structure, which starts with Fontainebleau in the woods,” she said. “It’s a lot lighter. You can see love and joy and all the positive things instead of her starting out miserable. You need a happy Elisabeth. She’s young and curious.” You can see that she is vigorous. She grows up very quickly.”
Princess Eboli can also be seen as a reflection of Verdi’s commitment to characters, especially female characters, and Matochkina sees the role as the ultimate way to showcase her voice and acting skills. .
“Almost all Verdi’s roles, especially the mezzo-soprano ones, are contradictory and bright,” she says. “Eboli encompasses all emotions and situations, such as love, jealousy, the suffering of unrequited love, the desire for revenge, attempts to influence politics, all of which generate great energy. I have.”
Ultimately, “Don Carlo” is a story about the limits of love and devotion to God and the crown. It’s about the continuity of history, not the boring story of nearly 5,000 years ago.
“Whether it’s a royal story or an old story, these are the things we know from life now,” Davidsen said. “Do I believe in you? Do I have the courage to live with you? And it’s all told in such a beautifully written opera.”