Special to Town Times by Larry Kellum

Not heard with any opera company in Connecticut since 1976, the CT Lyric Opera and its CT Virtuosi Orchestra presented Verdi’s colossal “Don Carlo” at the newly named Santo Fragilio Performing Arts Center in Middletown on May 11., with mainly successful results. As composers go, Verdi’s operas are the ones with the most pageantry and grandeur, containing big rousing choruses and casts of at least 3 or 4 major all-star singers. However, in “Don Carlo” (and also “Forza del Destino:”), the man went all out composing lengthy epic masterpieces that require no less than 6 world-class artists.
Furthermore, there are two versions of this opera — the original 5 act one in French and the more popular revised 4 act one in Italian. It was the latter that the CLO presented statewide in May to close its 2018-19 season.
The opera is called “Don Carlo”, but often, the tenor title role and the soprano as his beloved Elisabetta are eclipsed by the sizzling mezzo as Eboli and the imposing bass as the historic King Philip. Like Verdi’s own Desdemona in “Otello”, the young queen is basically a static, low-lying, coloratura-free heroine who comes into her own in a gorgeous 11-minute aria at 11:00 at night to a sometimes half empty or half-asleep theater. Thankfully, none of this applied on the Middletown stage. Not only were all four roles well cast with veteran singers, but they were joined by two others (the cavernous bass of Stefan Szafarowsky as the Inquisitor and the dramatic baritone of Andrew Costello as Posa) to create a sextet of glorious Verdian voices. Standouts were the gentle floated pianissimos of soprano Jurate Svedaite (Elisabetta) and the bold knock-’em-dead high notes of Galina Ivannikova (Eboli), while CLO favorites Daniel Juarez (Carlo) and Steve Frederiks (Philip) sang as effortlessly as they always do here in every role.

This was one of this company’s best achievements to date… The orchestration in “Don Carlo” is brassy and hefty, but ace maestro Adrian Sylveen also elicited many nuances from his strings and woodwinds.