Black ones, small ones, big ones!
Red ones, and red ones glowing ominously in the dark.
Stark, dark, ominous and threatening.
Fitting sets to the dark, ominous and strong music Verdi composed for this tragedy in 5 acts set during the deepest gloom in Spanish history- the inquisition after a play by Schiller.
The most glorious voices were assembled as cast.
From Soprano Tamara Wilson's silvery yet big voiced Elisabeth to the deepest male voices.
Yes, the basses were upfront on stage here.
From the veteran Samuel Ramey as the Grand Inquisitor who trumps everyone and everything singing gravelly with power (at age 70 yet); via Oren Gradus, a truly sepulchral spirit of Charles V; and Andrea Silvistrelli as Philippe II, the tortured father and anguished husband of Elisabeth, who was originally slated to be his own son's fiancee, to the lighter voiced Boris Dyakov, as always so elegant, as Count Lerme.
The baritones did not stay far behind.
The dramatically sung and especially acted Marquis Posa of Scott Hendricks was rather emotional to behold. Mark Diamond's Forester showcased his fresh baritone voice in this cameo role.
But the glory of the show went, without hesitations to the 3 main characters.
Soprano Wilson, a regal and yet very sympathetic Elisabeth, trying to uphold her vows.
Christine Goerke, as Countess Eboli, embodied unrequited love scorned and turned to vicious hatred with a powerful mezzo. But was equally believable in her solo O don fatale, bemoaning her fatal beauty and atoning for her misdeeds.
In other cameos we heard the fine soprano Brittany Wheeler as celestial voice, soprano Lauren Snouffer in the travesty role of Thibault, page ot Elisabeth, Scott Quinn as King's Herald and Judith Irvington as Countess Aremberg.
The HGO orchestra was led by Maestro Summers with sensitivity, while Chorus Master Bado, as usual, had the HGO chorus singing uniformly with beauty.
Direction by John Caird who placed singers well on stage easily viewed from most seats in the house, (sitting on side orchestra I can attest to that). The set of crosses in all forms and colors was by Johan Engels, well highlighted by lighting designer Levings. Choreography by Sayers.
And now I come to the crux (truly cross to bear, IMO) of the matter:
the costuming by Oberle!
A terrible mish mash of traditional, modernized (but from which decades?)
The chorus women's royal blues in various shades at least were becoming.
Elisabeth's dresses were y demonstrative of her role as innocent princess and later wronged queen.
Eboli's simply did not convey the countess's implied (O don fatale! remember) attraction. Oh my, that insipid pink at first.
Later the deeply decolletage'd black lace (a midi-skirted fifties look?) did give perhaps a slight hint of a night of debauchery with the King!
But the men's.
Deliver me from the men's.
From Don Carlos' first appearance in a semblance of Raiders of the Lost Ark get up, to his later costume reminiscent of Pontevedrian counts, with perhaps a soupcon of Mikado thrown in; to the gangster (not gangsta - thank heavens) look complete with black fedoras of the male court, and finally the black stormtrooper looks of the jailers and guards, IMO caused hysterical rather than sinister impressions and seemed, to me, without rhyme nor reason.
Oh, I should not forget the red "Ku Klux clannishly" (:-) clad inquisition executioners. While the Grand Inquisitor was cardinally (lol) dressed simply in black with purple sash and scull cap.
The production by HGO is worth going to, just to the hear the original opera composed by Verdi for the French in the French language (later it was translated into multiple versions, shortened, and re-shortened LOL into Italian which IMO sounds more suited to Verdian Music). But the singers overall did a magnificent job singing en Francais, in French that was actually understood rather well by those in the audience who have knowledge of that tongue, moi included!