Pasquale Bona: Don Carlo (1847)

Opera in four acts. Running Time: 2 hours 17 minutes.

PLOT: Similar to Verdi’s Don Carlo but some things left out and others added from Schiller’s play not included in Verdi. The libretto is available at Internet Archive here:

archive.org/details/doncarlodrammali00bona.

I apologize for the poor sound quality of this video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zO2QTK9aRkU

LOOK OUT FOR:

ACT 1 (56.30 minutes)

Scene 1: The palace at Aranjuez, garden visible.

4: The overture is a mostly dim little affair starting off with some ornery musical joking, then it flops about for a while and then becomes a bit more serious but never gives us anything clear. It abruptly ends (at least I think so as there is another 3 minutes of orchestral music before anyone sings and we have a march). This is slightly better but none of this merits more than a star *, and probably not even that.

7, 11, 16: The opening chorus consists of faux-Spanish choral works for the royal court with a nature-theme lilt *. The Duke of Alba (tenor) comes on to tells us about the conflict between King Filippo and his son the Infante Carlo involving the new Queen. There is an OKAY chorus that ends the number leading to the arrival of Carlo and later the Marques of Posa (Rodrigo) *. Carlo is angry because of the whole dad marrying the girl he loves thing. The aria is rather standard * but worth mentioning. It gets a little disjointed at times but the tenor gives it some conviction.

19, 25: Rodrigo gives us his report on Flanders. It is really sad at first but it speeds up into a march melody rather quickly and this isn’t half bad **. There are frequent interjections from Carlo. Towards the end Carlo goes on about how he is in love with his own step-mother. Rodrigo has another serious bit here but there is an annoying flute following around Carlo *. I don’t know how successful Rodrigo is at getting Carlo involved with the whole Flanders Liberation Front thing but the scene ends okay yet it is hardly the “Friendship motto” of Verdi. Also note that we are a half-hour into the opera and almost nothing has actually happened. Verdi got this far into the story in like 18 minutes and had spooky monks!

Scene 2: The garden.

44: Annoyingly happy prelude music brings us to Queen ISABELLA (!) not Elisabetta (what is going on?). The woodwinds sound like a coo-coo bird. There is some annoying static at 36:36 but you really aren’t missing that much anyways and she is flat it seems at the end and then there is a mild chorus of court ladies. Eboli arrives asking to leave the court because she doesn’t want to wed Gomez (the duke of Alba). Their duet has a mildly interesting finish.  Rodrigo tires to pull the Flanders Lib on Isabella, but it is all a pretense to dismiss her maid building up to Carlo’s arrival and his interview with Isabella. This is actually rather good **. They think about their lost love albeit a bit low on passion, he addresses her as his mother which doesn’t help. This isn’t long enough.

52, 55: The King arrives and he is enraged that the Queen has been left alone and dismisses her maid. This doesn’t remotely border on the dramatic complexity Verdi gave the same scene in Act 2 Scene 2 of Don Carlos, but it is okay *. The Duke of Alba shows up and then the finale begins * with the King wanting to head back to Madrid, Isabella homesick for France and the Duke for some reason excited about how his plans are coming to pass but as usual it all happens in seconds.

ACT 2: 21 minutes

Scene 1: The King’s bedroom.

3: Extremely quick intro brings us to the King’s arioso before Rodrigo arrives for a interview. He has a furious solo bit * that collapses in front of the King but then restarts. It’s confused, the music and my Italian and thus my knowledge of what they are saying. There is some strong music here (particularly from Rodrigo), but it is fragmented. Filippo is forlorn knowing that Carlo is in love with Isabell (who has no love for her husband) and confides this to Rodrigo. The scene ends with a standard opera scene finish.

Scene 2: Gallery in the palace made up for an auto-da-fe of Flems.

16: Carlo attacks Filippo verbally (but not to his face yet), over the impending auto-da-fe. He has an altercation with the Duke of Alba.  The Queen arrives and later the King who has Carlo arrested. The finale is rather sub-par but has a sleepy quality to it  when it isn’t being agitated *. The Queen and just about everyone else beg for mercy but get none although at the end it finally shakes off sleepy-time, briefly.

ACT 3 34 minutes

Scene 1: The room of the Princess Eboli.

3: Eboli has a rather nice if slow aria * with an interesting flute bit popping in every so often.

6: Carlo arrives to a cheery accompaniment which becomes a bit more serious. Their duet has an interestingly springy quality to it * from a flute.

12: Suddenly, the sound quality gets better or at least louder and we have something at least more serious if not better * as Carlo finds he has the wrong woman and Eboli vows revenge. It is a mixed bag number, some of it very good but other bits rather weak.

Scene 2: Gallery in the Royal Palace, Madrid.

20: Choral work: the king is angry with Carlo (what else is new? isn’t this all getting a little old?). There is a little nice flowery early Verdian  bit toward the end *.

23: The Queen has a good recitative (good orchestral accompaniment that is). Rodrigo arrives and after about two minutes things start to race around in what I guess is either an arioso or the start of a duet **? Isabella responds with a harp accompaniment. This, along with her duet with Carlo in act 1, is the strongest number in the opera.

32: The Queen leaves and Carlo arrives and talks to Rodrigo about death, suddenly Rodrigo is shot and after more recitative dies. There is a mild accompaniment here *.

MISSING SCENA: The King comes on and father and son get into yet another argument about why the former just had Rodrigo murdered. This ends the third act and is not included here.

ACT 4 23 minutes

Scene 1: The King’s room.

0: Filippo contemplates what is going on, Eboli has given him enough evidence to convict his son of adultery with Isabella or something to that effect. The aria is something to the effect that being king is rather miserable *.

4: A rather good tuneful if fast chorus comes on ready for the order to arrest Carlo. There is something about this chorus which sounds like it comes from a Verdi opera from the same year *. Filippo’s cabaletta which follows has a springy accompaniment but is a little stock. The chorus rounds the scene out rousingly.

Scene 2: The Queen’s apartments.

9: Isabella is fed up with the vanity of this world.  Carlo arrives and there is some odd woodwind play. Their duet * is very sorrowful until a mild bit appears in Isabella’s accompaniment. There is some faux-Spanish bits with Carlo. It starts to come together around the 129 minute mark on the video.

16: The last five minutes of the opera mostly consist of Carlo saying good-bye one last time to Isabella before the arrival of Filippo who confronts the pair and orders the arrest of Carlo who is dragged away by the guards, thus ending the opera. A star for the trouble, but it is all rather standard dramatic low voltage stuff *.

COMMENTS:

It is hard to judge this opera as it pales in comparison to Verdi’s masterwork which is based on the same play by Schiller. There isn’t much music of mention here and the best music (the duets between Isabella and Carlo in act 1 and between her and Rodrigo in act 3) is still rather forgettable. Rodrigo’s aria about Flanders in act 1 is also worth mentioning. Plot-wise what we have here is equally pale in comparison to Verdi. Act one follows a similar structure to Verdi’s original act 2, although the interview between Rodrigo and King Filipe is moved to the beginning of act 2 here. There is the auto-da-fe in basically the same position but of different significance. Act 3 starts with what is vaguely the same concept as Act 3 Scene 1 in Verdi but why is Carlo confused about Eboli in her own apartments? Also, how exactly Eboli gets revenge on Carlo is not explained well. Rodrigo dies in essentially the same point as in Verdi and the final scene proves that Schiller’s play has no logical and dramatically satisfying conclusion, which sort of leaves Verdi off the hook for the coup de theatre idiocy of grandpa Carlo stealing away grandson Carlo in the family crypt as in Verdi. This is a hard work to recommend apart from as a curio to compare to Verdi. Definitely a gamma, C.

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