I have a second cousin who is as big an opera freak as I am. Several weeks ago I discovered she and I had the same taste in Verdi. We both consider Don Carlo to be our favorite Verdi. That is wild, and quite possibly is genetic. She is not as insane as I am when it comes to being a baritone junkie, but she’s almost as bad. I’m infamous. The great Sherrill Milnes eventually stopped signing photos for me, saying that I should have enough to wall paper my bathroom. When I finally get a house with a powder room, I plan on doing just that!
Let’s face it, there’s a reason we’re Barihunk junkies.
Over the years, I was fortunate enough to see and hear him do Don Carlo (or Don Carlos) numerous times. As an opera, it was almost out of favor at the Met for years, until 1979. When they revived it, with a new production, it first starred Milnes and Placido Domingo. The following year, it was broadcast. I was fortunate to see it on stage during the Met tour, then several times at the Met. Or, should I say I was blessed to see Sherrill Milnes, every time.
The February 21, 1980 performance was one of the greatest anythings I’ve ever heard. According to the blurb from the Met on Demand…
“…James Levine leads an all-star ensemble in this memorable telecast of Verdi’s most ambitious opera, seen in John Dexter’s classic production. Renata Scotto is Elizabeth of Valois, the French princess who becomes the wife of Philip II, King of Spain (Paul Plishka)—although she loves his son, Don Carlo (Vasile Moldoveanu). Sherill Milnes sings Posa, Carlo’s friend and the king’s advisor who is secretly aiding a rebellion, and Tatiana Troyanos is Princess Eboli, the King’s scheming mistress who nevertheless wants Don Carlo for herself. Jerome Hines rounds out the cast in the small but crucial role of the sinister Grand Inquisitor…”
One thing that always floors me is how, in so many places in this opera, Dmitri Hvorostovsky sounds like Sherrill Milnes. It is the ultimate complement. Trust me.
Please, feel free to wallow in good opera. We deserve it.