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Don Carlo review at Royal Opera House, London – ‘a serviceable revival’

Kristin Lewis and Bryan Hymel in Don Carlo at Royal Opera House, London. Photo: Tristram Kenton Kristin Lewis and Bryan Hymel in Don Carlo at Royal Opera House, London. Photo: Tristram Kenton
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Partly owing to late cast changes this third revival of Nicholas Hytner’s production of Don Carlo, first seen in 2008, is dominated by its American leading man.

Though less timbrally honeyed than Jonas Kaufmann, Bryan Hymel as Carlos nonetheless displays impressive vocal elasticity and heft.

With limited time to adapt to the show’s take on the character of Posa, German baritone Christoph Pohl offers nicely focused, compact tone. Arkansas-born Kristin Lewis makes her surprise house debut as Elizabeth of Valois. Ekaterina Semenchuk is more predictably potent as Princess Eboli though even she takes time to warm up. A young-looking Ildar Abdrazakov can’t quite eclipse memories of Ferruccio Furlanetto’s resplendent, rock-solid King Philip – here the complexity of the character is only hinted at.

The clearer narrative of Verdi’s five-act 1886 version is mostly well projected. While the rhythms could be crisper, Betrand de Billy’s pacing is sound.

The traditional period costumes are complemented by sets poised between timeless spectacle and courtly claustrophobia. The red robes of the Grand Inquisitor are potent even if Paata Burchuladze, the veteran Georgian bass inhabiting them, has little voice left with which to convey the requisite sense of menace.

Attempts have been made to de-clutter the auto-da-fe scene but this remains stylistically out of kilter. And in a de-mythologized denouement, Carlos is neither snatched from the clutches of the Inquisition nor headed for posthumous redemption.

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A serviceable revival of Nicholas Hytner’s production