LA Opera – Don Carlo with Plácido Domingo

In a sumptuous presentation, LA Opera assayed Giuseppe Verdi’s timeless Don Carlo. First performed in France and then Bologna in 1867, the opera has undergone evolution over the decades. Originally a five act production, the LA Opera compresses the action into four acts across a three and a half hour running time. Based on the life of Prince Carlos and the conflicts arising from the forced marriage of his lover to his father Philip of Spain, the drama unfolds across several scenes.

Plácido Domingo as Rodrigo in LA Opera’s 2018 production of “Don Carlo.” (photo: Cory Weaver)

The main attraction of the current production for most attendees was the indefatigable Plácido Domingo, in the role of Rodrigo. As the comrade of Don Carlo, Domingo straddles his affiliation with father and son. Domingo’s prowess is only slightly diminished as he enters his eighth decade. The statistics around Domingo are rather staggering: at LA Opera he has sung 30 roles to date and conducted 25 productions. Pulling the lens back further, over his career he has sung over 3900 performances of 150 roles and conducted over 600 performances. This season alone he appears in La Traviata at the Met, La Scala, Covent Garden and the Royal Opera House Muscat. You can also find him in productions in Berlina and Vienna, as well the title role in El Gato Montes back at LA Opera.

Some of Domingo’s movements may be a bit slower these days, but very little of his upper register was strained.

Ramón Vargas in the title role of LA Opera’s 2018 production of “Don Carlo.” (Photo: Cory Weaver / LA Opera)

In the title role, Ramón Vargas was superb. Leveraging his prior experience of the role with the Vienna State Opera, Vargas was fully in command. Expressing the distress at his character’s circumstances, Vargas alternated between boldly resigned and tragically berift.

Ferruccio Furlanetto received deserved acclaim as King Philip, in the pivotal role as the senior most point of the triangular relationship.

Morris Robinson as the Grand Inquisitor and Ferruccio Furlanetto as King Philip II in LA Opera’s 2018 production of “Don Carlo.” (Photo: Cory Weaver / LA Opera)

The religious overtones were omnipresent, and the larger than life role of the Grand Inquisitor was fulfilled by Morris Robinson.

A scene from LA Opera’s 2018 production of “Don Carlo.” (Photo: Cory Weaver / LA Opera)

James Conlon conducted with authority. Clever lighting by Rick Fisher was augmented by John Gunter’s massive scenic design. Shifting between scenes at a tomb, garden, town square, study and a monastery, the sets evoked the era very well.



Brad Auerbach has been a journalist and editor covering the media, entertainment, travel and technology scene for many years. He has written for Forbes, Time Out London, SPIN, Village Voice, LA Weekly and early in his career won a New York State College Journalism Award.