I have had this stuck in my head on and off for several days. I have no idea why.
Thinking about Verdi, and specifically about Don Carlos made me remember this, which is an item of a fairly specific type: the recital CD that is a pleasure to listen to but which you can make yourself sick of fairly quickly. This is nothing against Magdalena Kožená. She sings these arias about as lyrically and stylishly as it is possible to sing them. But it’s the kind of material that has limits as far as repetition goes. And I say this as a person who has a fairly high tolerance for repetition. (That Salzburg DVD of Clemenza? I can tell you right before Röschmann glances behind her in Act I to make sure that a pillar she thinks is there is actually where she expects it to be that that is what she is going to do. Because I’ve watched it that many times.)
Don Carlos is my favorite Verdi opera. It is difficult to put my finger on why – certainly Falstaff and Othello are also up there in terms of operas by Verdi that I enjoy. Also Traviata, sometimes. Then there is Macbeth, certain parts of which always make me either smile or cringe. There is something not quite right about Macbeth, but that is perhaps another subject for another day.
On the face of it, it is hard to explain why I find Don Carlos so compelling. But I think I can work out the reason, most of which is in the music, but part of which is the work of Friedrich Schiller, on whose play the story is based.
I was thinking about that snippet of Don Carlos that was lodged in my brain for some reason the other day and eventually I went back and listened again to the recording it’s from, which is this.
I had not listened to this in a while, and two things jumped out at me. One, Shirley Verrett’s voice (she is Eboli) is even better than I remembered. The part of her voice that always made the greatest impression on me was the lower register, which can make your hair stand on end (in a good way). I forget how nice the top of it was too. I never really understood why she decided to be come a soprano later in her career — she was a hell of a mezzo.