La Scala opens as always on December 7th celebrating Sant’Ambrogio, Milan’s patron saint of music, and “Trove Thursday” presents an all-star five-act Don Carlo from forty years ago tonight: Claudio Abbado conducting Mirella Freni, Elena Obraztsova, José Carreras, Piero Cappuccilli, Nicolai Ghiaurov and Yevgeni Nesterenko. Since it’s my favorite Verdi opera I serve up a double-scoop with Don Carlos featuring an impressive all-Francophone cast of Suzanne Sarroca, Lyne Dourian, Georges Liccioni, Matteo Manuguerra, Jacques Mars and Marc Vento

I first learned Don Carlo from a “pirate” conducted by Herbert von Karajan from the Salzburg Festival and had no idea how chopped up it was—no second verses for the Veil Song nor Rodrigo’s imprecation nor Elisabetta’s farewell. Big chunks were sliced out of both Elisabetta-Carlo duets and even “Tu che le vanita” had sections removed.

When I heard this Abbado performance not long after it was broadcast I was astounded at all the “new” music: not only the complete Fontainebleau act but also the scene in which Elisabetta and Eboli exchange cloaks and the magnificent mourning duet for Carlo and Filippo after Rodrigo’s assassination. There’s also the extended finale with its mysterious quiet ending. All in all, it was a revelation.

Some of these passages have become more commonly performed since this 1977 production; all as well as the expanded riot scene at the end of the fourth act were included in the recent, much-discussed Don Carlos at the Paris Opéra. Since many have expressed a preference for the original language, to supplement the wonderful Abbado performance I’m also including a version in French sung by singers utterly at home in the language, not something one might have said about the Paris cast.

The difference between “international” French and truly idiomatic French may surprise some in this music. While this broadcast from French Radio is also in five acts it doesn’t include a lot of restored music heard at La Scala a decade later.

Verdi: Don Carlo
Teatro alla Scala
7 December 1977

Mirella Freni: Elisabetta
Elena Obraztsova: Eboli
Stefania Malagù: Tebaldo
José Carreras: Don Carlo
Piero Cappuccilli: Rodrigo
Nicolai Ghiaurov: Filippo II
Evgenij Nesterenko: Il Grande Inquisitor
Luigi Roni: Un Frate

Conductor: Claudio Abbado

Verdi: Don Carlos
French Radio ORTF 1967 Broadcast

Suzanne Sarroca: Elisabeth
Lyne Dourian: Eboli
Mirelle Martin: Thibault
Georges Liccioni: Carlos
Matteo Manuguerra: Rodrique
Jacques Mars: Philippe II
Marc Vento: Inquisitor
Pierre Thau: Monk

Conductor: Pierre-Michel Lecomte

Both Don Carlo and Don Carlos can be downloaded by clicking on the icon of a square with an arrow pointing downward on their audio player and the resulting mp3 file will appear in your download directory.

More than 100 other “Trove Thursday” podcasts remain available from iTunes for free, or via any RSS reader.