Heroic Opera's Don Carlo
Photo: Stephan Grey

Heroic Opera

Don Carlo by Giuseppe Verdi

When & Where March 30, 31 at 7:30pm. and April 2 at 2pm | The Annex Theatre, 823 Seymour St. Vancouver

Music Director John Arsenault Stage Director Jeanine Fynn Costume Design Tracy Bijl Set Design Cameron Killick Stage Manager Andy Sandberg Producer Melissa Ratcliff Pianist Maria Jung

Reviewer Christian Steckler


It’s a treat to see Heroic Opera at work again in the city. Their talent and production values far outstrip their meagre resources in the performances they give. This latest and all-too-brief run of Verdi’s four-act opera, Don Carlo, showcases truly fine operatic and staging talent in a venue that is small for such huge voices and talents.

The music, directed by John Arsenault and played by pianist Maria Jung, carries the moods, contexts and emotions of the opera masterfully. Jeanine Fynn’s stage direction captivates, with focus when necessary, and good movement throughout the stage when warranted. Her modern updates, along with versatile sets, modern props and impressive costumes, are far from distracting, and, in fact, serve to bring the audience’s sensibilities into the action.

The performers in this production create a truly memorable evening. Strong performances, vocally and dramatically, are presented by every one of the players. Looking at the main players, Kevin Armstrong’s extensive international experience is evident in his portrayal of the tortured Prince Don Carlo. His strong vocal range is truly admirable, as is his dramatic performance. The focus of Don Carlos’ torture is Elizabeth de Valois, his betrothed, who has been taken to wife by his father, King Philip. Allyson Hop shines as this pawn, resigned to duty despite her love for Don Carlo. Her lament in the final act is sublime. Andrew Greenwood’s King Philip is, himself, tortured to find himself in a loveless marriage, with an alienated son - all his own doing, of course, but in the threatening context of the Inquisition which tragically constrains his decisions and actions. Greenwood’s strong vocal and dramatic talents carry his scenes to praiseworthy heights.

Cameron Killick’s rich baritone soars in his portrayal of Rodrigo, Don Carlo’s true friend throughout. His duet with Armstrong in the first act is testament to their harmonic talents, and his appearances throughout the story are always captivating. Melissa Ratcliff, as Eboli, is spellbinding. Her strong soprano never fails, carrying the emotions of the audience at every turn, be it in her yearning for Carlos, her rage in finding that he loves only Elizabeth, or her despair in the consequences of her vengeful behaviour. Credit also goes to Odyn Mulder, whose bass-baritone features a hollowness that carries a foreboding quality, perfectly suiting their role as the Grand Inquisitor. There are no minor talents in this production. Smaller roles or larger, the talent is remarkable.

Don Carlo has only a short run - a pity, given the impressive talent of this Heroic Opera production.

© 2023 Christian Steckler