Francesco Meli & Eleonora Buratto Lead New ‘Don Carlo’ at Maggio Musicale

By Francisco Salazar

On Dec. 27, the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino is set to open a new production of Verdi’s “Don Carlo” in its four-act version.

The production by Roberto Andò will be performed five times through Jan. 8 and will be conducted by Daniele Gatti. The cast will include Francesco Meli, Eleonora Buratto, Roman Burdenko, Massimo Cavalletti, Alexander Vinogradov, Ekaterina Semenchuck, and Mikhail Petrenko.

Regarding the title role Meli said, “I made my debut in this title role at Teatro alla Scala in January 2017. Once again, I’m taking on this Verdi opera, such a pulsating, tormented, and complex work, here at the Teatro del Maggio during the festival devoted to Verdi. In Milan, the five-act version was preferred, but here in Florence we’re performing the four-act version, which is also my favorite.”

He added, “I am also fascinated by the creative process, the adaptations, corrections, and cuts that the composer made to this work over the twenty years that passed between the first version in French and the final 1886 version. With Verdi, nothing is left to chance. In studying the different versions, I have found even more evidence of this. However, the completeness of the more frequently staged 1884 Milan version is fascinating and moving. It can be seen, firstly, in the contrast between different parts, when the rapid flurry of events and frenetic music give way to lyrical, melodic oases of absolute beauty. The opera’s appeal is a result of theatrical effect combined with musical genius. But there is no doubt that the individual characters are also fascinating.

“I am thinking, above all, of Philip Il, and of Rodrigo, but also the Queen. The opera is not named after Don Carlo by mere chance: in the dramatic conflicts around which the plot develops, which can be summed up as rivalry between father and son (Philip II and the Prince, Don Carlo), and differing political viewpoints between the King and Rodrigo and, above all, between the State and the Church, Don Carlo is an impetuous young man when moved by patriotic feelings, and ardent in his obstinate, dangerous love for Elisabeth. Verdi assigns him a challenging tessitura, which demands full mastery of one’s voice. At the same time, he also requires Don Carlo to sing mezza voce, helping to highlight the more lyrical side of this fundamentally impulsive character.”

Buratto who made her debut in the role last fall at the Metropolitan Opera added, “I loved giving my heart and my voice to this queen, who was crushed by a fate decided by those in power, yet was regal in her role as a wife and intimately as a woman, from the beginning to the end of the grandiose chain of events. As Verdi intended, the figure of Elisabeth is extraordinary, because she is involved in events that represent two opposing conceptions of politics, but also because of the impossible love between Elisabeth herself and her stepson, Don Carlo, Prince of Spain and Philip’s son.”

The first performance of “Don Carlo” is set to be broadcast on Rai Radio 3.