Verdi: Don Carlo - Freni, Domingo, Ludwig, Ghiaurov, Cappuccilli, Van Dam; Karajan. Salzburg, 1975
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Even though Herbert von Karajan's power may have become a little overreaching in his later years, one of the benefits was his ability to assemble glittering casts. For example, this performance of Don Carlo features not only Mirella Freni, Placido Domingo, Christa Ludwig, Piero Cappuccilli and Nicolai Ghiaurov in the main roles but also José van Dam and Anna Tomowa-Sintow in the roles of the Frate and Voce dal cielo respectively. The decadence in the casting pays of with a performance heavily laden with talent and artistry. Mirella Freni as Elisabetta may have lacked the spinto quality of Tebaldi or Stella but she makes up for with it with a purity of tone that few true spinto sopranos could achieve. Placido Domingo rises to the formidable challenges of the title role, highlighting the hopeless anguish of Carlo much like he did for Otello. By the mid-70s Christa Ludwig's top lacked the ease of earlier years, but she is well supported by Karajan who helps her through some of the more formidable parts with remarkable sensitivity to her needs and ultimately delivers. Piero Cappucilli sounds like a god as Posa. Nicolai Ghiaurov's voice was just starting to loose some of the focus that it had in the 60s but his is still commanding as Filippo. A special shout-out must go to the superb musicians of the Vienna Philharmonic. The sound is excellent.