The Met’s first-ever Don Carlos opens on February 28, prompting Trove Thursday to offer two other important American productions of Verdi’s French masterpiece: Sarah Caldwell’s US premiere with Edith Tremblay, Michèle Vilma, John Alexander, William Dooley and Donald Gramm, plus a San Francisco Opera broadcast with Pilar Lorengar, Stefania Toczyska, Neil Shicoff, Alan Titus and Robert Lloyd.

Both of today’s performances include the beautiful duet by Carlos, Philippe and chorus after Rodrigue’s death, but SF oddly ends the act there omitting the usual insurrection scene. The Don Carlos performed at the Paris Opéra in 2017 used a version of the Carlos-Philippe duet that I’d never heard before followed by a much longer than usual insurrection that included an appearance by Elisabeth that took me completely by surprise.

Both Boston and SF use the brief Elisabeth-Eboli duet before “O don fatal” and conclude the opera with the quiet chorus of monks. The latter also ends the 1977 La Scala version conducted by Claudio Abbado. but Abbado omits the two-diva duet.

I believe both the 1979 John Dexter (the first time the company performed the Fontainebleau act) and the 2010 Nicholas Hytner Met productions of Don Carlo used nearly the same edition except for a minor change in the opening scene between Elisabetta and the hunters.

So far, it’s unclear exactly which Don Carlos music the Met will be including this winter. The synopsis on its website suggests that the episode at the beginning of act 3 when Elisabeth and Eboli exchange cloaks will be performed. It appears in today’s Boston performance but not in San Francisco’s. One hopes that sometime before the premiere the Met will be forthcoming about its edition.

The 1986 San Francisco broadcast finds Lorengar in late but still appealing form in her only French Elisabeth—she was 58 at the time. However, she sang Elisabetta at her home theater, Berlin’s Deutsche Oper, as well as in her only appearances at Lyric Opera of Chicago in 1971. Interested listeners may find clips of that starry revival on YouTube.

I heard Shicoff at the Met several years after this SF performance when he sang in Don Carlo opposite Margaret Price, Tatiana Troyanos, Bernd Weikl and Ruggero Raimondi. The title role suited his nervous energy admirably.

Recordings from the Caldwell years in Boston are rather rare. Most feature occasions when big stars worked with her: Régine Crespin in the US stage premiere of the complete Les Troyens; Shirley Verrett as Aïda and Desdemona; Jon Vickers in Benvenuto Cellini, and a number of Beverly Sills collaborations including her only stage appearances in Rigoletto and I Capuleti ed I Montecchi.

I haven’t heard all of these but many are in decent sound. Most of Don Carlos is as well although listeners should be warned there are substantial tape slips and skips during the Carlos-Philippe duet through the Act 4 finale.

The deliciously irresistible Met Futures Wiki page contains dates for a Don Carlo revival next season with Anna Netrebko, Anita Rachvelishvili and (maybe) Gunther Groissböck and it also appears to be a return to a four-act version absent from the Met since 1972!

Verdi: Don Carlos

Opera Company of Boston
24 May 1973
In-house recording

Elisabeth de Valois: Edith Tremblay
La Princesse Eboli: Michèle Vilma
Thibault: Pamela Herbert
Une voix celeste: Kathleen Lamy
Don Carlos: John Alexander
Rodrigue: William Dooley
Philippe II: Donald Gramm
Le Grand Inquisiteur: Fred Teschler
Un moine: Simon Estes
Le Comte de Lerme: Michael Trimbel

Conductor: Sarah Caldwell

San Francisco Opera
September 1986

Elisabeth de Valois: Pilar Lorengar
La Princesse Eboli: Stefania Toczyska
Thibault: Susan Patterson
Une voix celeste: Deborah Voigt
Don Carlos: Neil Shicoff
Rodrigue: Alan Titus
Philippe II: Robert Lloyd
Le Grand Inquisiteur: Joseph Rouleau
Un moine: Philip Skinner
Le Comte de Lerme: John David De Haan

Conductor: John Pritchard

Both versions of Don Carlos can be downloaded by clicking on the icon of a cloud with an arrow pointing downward on the audio player above and the resulting mp3 files will appear in your download directory.

One can also download or listen to a much-cut, 4-act Francophone Don Carlos with Suzanne Sarroca, Lyne Dourian, Georges Liccioni, Matteo Manuguerra and Jacques Mars.

In addition, nearly 500 other podcast tracks are always available from Apple Podcasts for free, or via any RSS reader. The archive which lists all Trove Thursday offerings in alphabetical order by composer will be further up-to-dated soon.