Opera Scotland

Don Carlos 1998Royal Opera

Read more about the opera Don Carlos

The extended closure of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, to allow for its spectacular redevelopment had the benefit for Scottish audiences of making its resident company available to visit the Edinburgh Festival Theatre for the 1997 and 1998 Festivals.

If it took a long time for Don Carlos to reach London, it still seems extraordinary to think this was the first performance of Verdi's biggest opera in Scotland on a fully professional scale. Previously, Scottish Opera had done a rather wonderful, if completely mad, piano-accompanied small-scale tour, but that was all. Here it was at last, performed by the Royal Opera, in the original French, conducted by one of the great masters of the day, and with some superb singers in the leading roles.

The Royal Opera first staged Don Carlos in 1958, in a production by Luchino Visconti conducted by Carlo Maria Giulini that was of great importance in establishing the reputation of the company. It remained in the repertoire for a quarter-century, being revived frequently with a range of great singers. With the exception of one late revival, it was always sung in the inadequate Italian translation, which has never been performed in Scotland. This new production from 1996 by Luc Bondy was a co-production with the Paris Châtelet that brought together a wonderful crop of performers. The production had excellent features, based largely on the characterization of the leading roles - Elisabeth, Carlos and Philip were given superbly three-dimensional portraits. But it has to be said that it was scenically not particularly inspired, and did not remain in the repertoire in London. It was soon replaced by a more interesting version, directed by Nicholas Hytner. Still at least the wonderful work had made it to Scotland at last, and we had been given the opportunity to see Ferruccio Furlanetto in one of his greatest roles. The other principals -  Karita Mattila, Julian Gavin, Violeta Urmana, Thomas Hampson and Kurt Rydl - provided wonderful support.

This was a fitting centrepiece for the Verdi celebration mounted by the Edinburgh Festival in 1998. The Royal Opera also brought a production of I masnadieri, and a concert performance of Luisa Miller. The Festival itself put together a stirring concert performance of Giovanna d'Arco. The year had no particular significance in Verdi terms, but, as with the previous Festival, the Royal Opera was available while Covent Garden was being renovated, and this was an opportunity unlikely to be repeated, certainly not for the Verdi centenary three years away. The other factor, which fitted in with the Festival's drama programme, was the fact that these were the four operas that Verdi derived from the dramas of Schiller. The Glasgow Citizens' Theatre had brought an excellent staging of Schiller's Don Carlos to the 1995 Festival, and returned this year with The Robbers - the source of I masnadieri.

Performance DatesDon Carlos 1998

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Festival Theatre, Edinburgh | Edinburgh

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