A Visconti take on a Verdi opera

The Greek public has a rare opportunity to see the revival of Luchino Visconti’s legendary 1965 mise-en-scene of Verdi’s opera «Don Carlo.» The new joint collaboration between the Athens Concert Hall and the Greek National Opera will open in the concert hall’s Alexandra Trianti Hall tonight. Overall, 10 performances have been scheduled through May 23. The opera production is the concert hall’s contribution to the celebrations for the 100-year anniversary of the Italian composer’s birthday. «The opera is being staged at the Athens Concert Hall for the first time. It is one of Verdi’s three political operas and, until now, had escaped our attention. We have been involved with Verdi’s revolutionary operas in the past and now we are programming a series of his political operas, which will be completed over some time,» said Christos Lambrakis, president of the Athens Concert Hall, among other things, at a recent press conference. The concert hall’s artistic director, Nikos Tsouchlos, welcomed the cast, which consists of top Greek and foreign opera singers. Giorgos Lazaridis, the National Opera’s artistic director, sent his best wishes via a message; he was unable to attend the press conference due to personal commitments. Loukas Karytinos, who will conduct the performances, spoke extensively about the opera. «’Don Carlo’ is an unusual opera and maybe Verdi’s most ambitious; it was the third attempt made by the composer to win Paris over. The plot could well include ‘Traviata’ and a ‘Trovatore’ at the same time. Set against a historical background, love stories become entangled with political and social ambitions,» said Karytinos «Don Carlo,» based on Friedrich Schiller’s tragedy «Don Carlos,» was staged for the first time on March 11, 1867, at the Paris Opera and consisted of five acts. Verdi continued to work on the opera and 17 years later he staged its four-act Italian version in Milan, in 1884. Joseph Franconi Lee, who undertook the revival of the mise-en-scene, provided some background information about the staging of Visconti’s version. «For his reworking of ‘Don Carlo,’ Visconti based his version on the 1958 Covent Garden staging of the opera. He worked tirelessly on it, along with maestro Carlo Maria Guilini. It is important for us to remain faithful to that production’s spirit, although it is difficult to do that after 40 years. I remember my teacher (a close collaborator of Visconti’s) who used to say that what matters is not the interpreter’s inclination, but your capacity, as a director, to value your interpreters’ abilities.» Alessandro Ciammarughi adapted the sets and costumes (which also bear Visconti’s signature). Franco Marri is responsible for the lighting and Marta Ferri arranged the choreography. Three different casts will alternate in the performances – interpreters include Dimitra Theodossiou, Giovanna Casolla, Marco Berti, Dario Volonte, Vangelis Hadzissimos, Francesco Ellero d’Artegna, Carlo Colombara, Christophoros Stamboglis, Dimitris Kavrakos and Dario Solari, among others. They will be joined by the Greek National Opera Orchestra and Choir (led by Nikos Vassileiou). As part of the concert hall’s tribute to Visconti, the Megaron Plus series has scheduled the screening of three of his masterpieces at the Nikos Skalkottas Hall with free admission: «Senso» is to be screened at 5 p.m. on May 18, «The Earth Trembles» at 7.30 p.m. on the same day and «Rocco and his Brothers» at 5 p.m. on May 19. For the opera only, attendees will be able to make free use of the concert hall’s parking garage by showing their tickets at the entrance. Athens Concert Hall, 1 Kokkali & Vas. Sofias, tel 210.728.2333.