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In the Power of Don Carlos

10 October 2019 09:19
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In the Power of Don Carlos

NUR-SULTAN. KAZINFORM Astana Opera invites residents and guests of the capital to get acquainted with the world classical masterpiece – Verdi’s opera Don Carlos. The entire opera house is now in the power of the composer: orchestra musicians, choir singers and soloists are rehearsing onstage, workers of the Scenic, Costume and Prop Shops are making the very last alterations. The premiere will take place on October 11 and 13 under the auspices of the Ministry of Culture and Sports of the Republic of Kazakhstan, the press service of Astana Opera informs.

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Italian stage director Davide Livermore, who on October 1 has received the most prestigious award of the operatic world – Opera Star International Opera Award 2019, also called the ‘Opera Oscar’ as the Best Director, is working at the Astana Opera not for the first time. The Maestro staged grand opera productions of Puccini’s Turandot and Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin . Davide Livermore noted that he has a great responsibility to present the opera Don Carlos for the first time in Kazakhstan, and that he must pull out all the stops to make the people here love Giuseppe Verdi even more.

«We will strive to make people feel the power and importance of this score. This opera, in addition to political strife, speaks of each character’s loneliness. On the one hand, a person can be rich and have great power, but on the other hand, he turns out to be lonely and unhappy,» Davide Livermore said.

There are almost no ‘passing’ characters in this opera; all six main parts play a leading role in the plot development and musical material. The composer created many hits for all voices – tenor, baritone, three (!) basses, soprano and mezzo-soprano. The opera is designed for leading singers who are able to fill one of Verdi’s most emotionally affecting compositions with drama.

The title role of Don Carlos is dynamic, with many dialogues and actions. The part of Carlos has been present in all outstanding tenors’ repertoire since the middle of the last century.

«I like the melodiousness of this opera, its excellent music. Right now there is an active rehearsal process, and each of us is striving, making every effort to ensure successful performances that the audience would love. For me, this is a new field where a great deal of work remains to be done and showing high skill is paramount, this part opens up new opportunities. Working with our entire production team and, of course, with the director Davide Livermore is very interesting for me,» Medet Chotabayev says.

The role of Élisabeth de Valois is assigned to the opera stars Maira Mukhamedkyzy and Zhannat Baktay.

«Everything is complicated in the part of Élisabeth: both vocals and acting. What does it mean to be a queen? It means that you need to show regalness, a special plastique of movements, grace. Élisabeth is young, smart and powerful. It is important to create a portrayal in such a manner so that the audience believes that I am a queen. Before this part, in my repertoire there were only young women who are in love or dying. Now I am exploring this character: trying to understand what she thinks, what she feels. Élisabeth, a woman who is deeply suffering, loves Don Carlos wholeheartedly, but retains her honor in the name of the King. When I rehearse, every time I think about how complicated their life is. For example, the entire world lies at King Philippe’s feet, but he suffers from the fact that he is not loved. At such moments, I understand that I am a happy opera singer, because I have the opportunity to try on the fate of different characters, and then become myself again,» Maira Mukhamedkyzy said.

Zhannat Baktay considers the part of Élisabeth very interesting.

«This is a new for me lyric-dramatic repertoire, in contrast to the usual lyrical-coloratura parts. Élisabeth is lower in tessitura than Eboli, thus, in a vocal sense, of course, it will be difficult. Vocal coach from Italy Ala Simonishvili worked with the singers and, even before meeting with the director, some work had already been done. The opera is big and the pressure lies not only on the artists, but also on the listeners, who must be prepared, read the libretto, and feel the atmosphere of that time. I like my heroine, because she is a loving woman, but, unfortunately, her dreams remain unfulfilled. I have experienced partners, we worked a lot together and have come a long creative way.»

Baritones Sundet Baigozhin and Talgat Mussabayev are preparing the part of Rodrigo di Posa – the King’s confidant, friend of Don Carlos. The artists note the main trait of their hero – honesty and dignity.

«This opera is considered one of the most difficult, not only by Giuseppe Verdi, but also in the entire world opera. The main difficulties lie in the vocals, because, for this opera, incomparable voice control – ‘belcanto’ – is required from the singers. Rodrigo – the role that I perform – is a man of his word, of honor. He worries about the people and their future. He tries with all his might to change the life of people oppressed by the brutal Inquisition, giving his life in the name of faith in the future, real friendship and bright ideas. We are all happy this production will be added to our repertoire. At the moment, in collaboration with the wonderful director Davide Livermore, with whom we have been working not for the first time, we are seeking new ways of interpreting this character in order to implement them,» Talgat Mussabayev shared.

Kings Can Do Everything…

Barseg Tumanyan performed Philippe II at different international venues many times, but he clearly remembers his first appearance onstage in the role of the King.

«The first time I performed this part in Los Angeles, my stage partner was Placido Domingo in the role of Don Carlos. No matter how many times I worked on this portrayal later, each time I think how to make it different. This is a very interesting opera not only in terms of music, dramatic content and people’s relations, the plot shows on what kind of falsehood an empire was built, and what kind of sacrifices people were ready or obliged to make. Philippe II, known in history as the most bloodthirsty king, was able to create Spain through the Inquisition and faith (church). Director Davide Livermore stages this opera very symbolically, every gesture here has meaning.»

For Evgeniy Chainikov, like for many other singers, this will be a debut performance.

«Just recently, I switched to the bass repertoire and this is my first major bass part. Maestro Livermore is confident that the role of Philippe II suits me not only in voice but also in appearance. I get great pleasure from working on it, I feel very harmonious in this role. This spring, I performed the opera Il Matrimonio Segreto in Spain, in Barcelona. There I had an opportunity to visit ancient castles, museums, and also the performance of Sara Pereyra Baras – one of the most famous flamenco dancers in the world. Incidentally, flamenco dance is also present in our production. I was very inspired by the Spanish atmosphere and this helps me to convey the spirit of the Spanish people onstage today.»

The sounds of the orchestra do not cease in the rehearsal halls. The musicians, led by Music Director of the production Maestro Alan Buribayev, are searching for new musical colors, working on phrasing and rhythms. The Principal Choirmaster of the Astana Opera Yerzhan Dautov hones the artists’ skills in the fiendishly difficult chanting choir in the auto-da-fé scene and the monks’ choir.

The opera Don Carlos stands out from the entire context of Giuseppe Verdi’s work, but remains one of the greatest creations that came out of the composer’s pen. The versatility and complexity of this opera is a real challenge for any opera house and the Astana Opera will certainly master this task!

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