Verdi: Don Carlo (In English) - Hunter, Swift, Guy, Howell, Van Allen, Du Plessis; Lloyd-Jones. ENO, 1974
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This is a very interesting recording and not just because it sports the great Rita Hunter as Elisabetta (more on her in a moment.) This recording is also of enormous interest to lovers of this opera because it is in English and it includes a few numbers that were nixed when Verdi made the Italian version. Such excerpts include the complete fontainbleu scene, the scene in which Elisabetta and Eboli exchange cloaks and the funeral music after Posa dies in which Verdi used music from his Requiem. Although this added music does make a long night at the opera even longer, it adds shades to the characters that we do not get to see otherwise. For example when Eboli and Elisabetta exchange cloaks it explains why Carlo would mistake Eboli for Elisabetta moments later, a moment that can otherwise come across as dramatically clunky. I also find the music right after Posa's death very important at it shows Filippo and Carlo together mourning the loss of a mutual friend. It is the only moment in the opera where there is anything resembling common ground between the two. They also use an alternate ending which was unfamiliar to me. It resembled the French ending minus the chorus of the priests. If that weren't enough to whet your appetite, they have assembled a cast of some of the greatest English singers of their day or any day. Most notable is the Elisabetta of Rita Hunter whose voice luxuriates in Verdi's long legato lines as well as pierces in the spinto outbursts. Tom Swift is also very good as Don Carlo. He opts to sing the role within the means of his lyric instrument and manages the daunting role with intelligence and sincerity. Gwynne Howell's voice is slightly wooly as King Philip, but he rises to great heights in his confrontation with the grand inquisitor of Richard Van Allen. Maureen Guy is a wild Eboli. The sound is good although the English can sometimes be lost due to the muffled quality of the recording.