For nearly a four-hour performance, the cast of Lyric’s production of the rarely staged Verdi opera Don Carlos keeps us latched to a tale of romance, religion-gone-wild in auto-da-fé style, grand political events and filicide. It’s a complicated plot in five acts, with a light moment not to be found.
After a relatively short overture prelude, it is the voice of Mexican American tenor Joshua Guerrero that invites us into the score. In this reviewer’s opinion, the ability of his solo aria to draw us in was somewhat stunning. Every member of the cast followed suit, such that the many arias, duets, trios, and choral gems in Verdi’s score was brought to our ears with non-failing perfection.
The music — dotted with recurring motifs and especially giving the clarinet’s lowest register many a chance to emote — doesn’t have too many moments that one might consider for a compilation of opera’s greatest hits. You too might agree that an exception is when the strings swirl around King Phillippe (Dmitri Belosseselskiy) in his Act IV aria, when he laments the loneliness of being old and unable to win the love of his young wife.
Lyric Opera’s Production is Ideal for Die-hard Verdi Fans
In his pre-performance lecture, musicologist and University of Illinois faculty member Harris S. Saunders explained that Lyric’s production was staged in various shades of gray to remind of a black-and-white archival film. We are to think of Verdi’s attraction to the original Schiller play of the same name with themes of a struggle for liberty that rang true to the composer whose Italy was still under Hapsburg rule. For this reviewer, though, the minimalist white-on-white set reminded more of a hybrid meld of a cavernous Washington D.C. subway with a NYC subway wall of tiles, though all bleached. The main variant to alert us if we are in a church or mausoleum is an oversized incense burner that appears on and off swaying above the barely moving actors.
It strikes this reviewer that this dearth of color or motion might help us stay focused on the standout musical talent in this production — from stars to instrument solos and the cohesion of the orchestra under conductor Enrique Mazzola’s baton. No Aida elephants here to distract you from the singing! Perhaps the superlative vocal performances by the leads, the chorus, and the orchestra could just as well dazzle us dressed in modern day garb in a concert performance.
Opera die-hards will likely not be able to find even a scintilla of flaw in this production. Newbies to the opera genre — who usually benefit from the magic of costumes and stagecraft, and often with choreography that helps engage as it moves a typically improbable opera storyline forward — should likely take a pass. This is a long opera that requires stamina and a good night’s sleep ahead of time.
Rachel Willis-Sørensen- Elisabeth
Clementine Margaine- Eboli
Joshua Guerrero- Carlos
Igor Golovatenko- Rodrigue
Dmitry Belosselskiy- Philippe
Soloman Howard- Grand Inquisitor
Denis Vélez- Thibault
Ron Dukes- Monk
Alejandro Luévanos- A Royal Herald
Lindsey Reynolds- Voice from Above
By Giuseppe Verdi
Enrique Mazzola- Conductor
Sir David McVicar- Original Director
Brigitte Reiffenstuel- Costume Designer
Andrew George- Choreographer
August Tye- Revival Choreographer
Joachim Klein- Original Lighting Designer
Michael Black- Chorus Master
Axel Weidauer- Revival Director
Robert Jones- Set Designer
Jan Hartmann- Revival Lighting Designer
November 9 - November 25, 2022
Wednesday 11/9 - 7 pm
Saturday 11/12 - 7:30 pm
Thursday 11/17 - 2 pm
Sunday 11/20 - 2 pm
Friday 11/25 - 7 pm
Lyric Opera of Chicago
20 N. Wacker Drive, Suite 860,
About the Author: Amy Munice
Amy Munice is Editor-in-Chief and Co-Publisher of Picture This Post. She covers books, dance, film, theater, music, museums and travel. Prior to founding Picture This Post, Amy was a freelance writer and global PR specialist for decades—writing and ghostwriting thousands of articles and promotional communications on a wide range of technical and not-so-technical topics.
Amy hopes the magazine’s click-a-picture-to-read-a-vivid-account format will nourish those ever hunting for under-discovered cultural treasures. She especially loves writing articles about travel finds, showcasing works by cultural warriors of a progressive bent, and shining a light on bold, creative strokes by fledgling artists in all genres.