Verdi: Don Carlo - Cecchele, Arroyo, Bumbry, Siepi, Romero, Cava; Schippers, Roma, 1974

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So often when I write descriptions of this opera I start with every character besides the titular one. The role of Don Carlo is so thankless and it is so difficult for even the greatest tenors to stand-out against the rest of the cast, all of whom have spectacular show-stopping numbers. That said, despite the spectacular supporting cast, Gianfranco Cecchele proves that it is possible to steal the show as Don Carlo. From his opening (we are treated to a truncated Fontainebleu scene) he make the role seem easy and his voice is ravishing. He is joined by Martina Arroyo as Elisabetta. The radiant opulence of Arroyo's voice make her ideal in this role. A true Verdi mezzo is a rare breed as it requires the chest voice of a contralto with the top of a soprano. Grace Bumbry had just that and makes mincemeat out of "O don fatale" complete with a high b that will knock your socks off (listen to the clip below.) By 1974 Cesare Siepi had been singing Filippo for nearly 25 years and this experience comes through in a performance that is both exquisitely sung and subtlety acted. It may surprise you to know that despite the fact that Thomas Schippers was in the pit, the tempi are not at break-neck speeds. The sound is good.

OD 10877-3

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