Sunday, March 10, 2013

"The pride of the King withers before the pride of the priest!" (King Philip, in "Don Carlos")


Eric Halfvorson as the Grand Inquisitor and Ferruccio Furlanetto as King Philip in Don Carlos at Covent Garden -- we'll be hearing both, though not together (and not even in the same language).

by Ken

As I noted in Friday's preview ("Every day is a good day for an auto-da-fé"), this week we pick up at the point where we left off in the January 27 post "Verdi's King Philip -- a man in crisis," with King Philip II of Spain alone in his study at dawn, having (presumably once again) spent a sleepless night over what he presumes to be the infidelity of his wife. And then at this ungodly hour, enter the Grand Inquisitor, 90 and blind, having been summoned by the king, yes, but clearly seizing the advantage of the hour (at his age, how much sleep does he need?), almost certainly knowing from spies in the palace that the king isn't sleeping anyway.

Over the years I've imagined "doing" this scene all sorts of ways, but not quite this one -- just laying it out there. I had 20 or so performances laid out in front of me, and contemplated all sorts of ways of breaking the scene up or down, and in the end I just threw my hands up and decided to let it speak for itself. With, moreover, a translation I've hardly touched, and with which I'm not thrilled, and which in addition is of the French text, which is not what nearly all our performances are using, and there are important differences. For example, when the Inquisitor asks Philip what means he has chosen to punish his son, in French the king answers with the enigmatic "All . . . or nothing," which certainly does call for more explanation, whereas in the Italian he simply replies, "Extreme means."

Nevertheless, I'm going to trust that the nine minutes or so of the scene will speak for itself, as (I believe I put it), the 90-year-old blind man wipes the floor with the most powerful -- secular, that is -- person on the planet.

VERDI: Don Carlos: Act IV, Scene 1, Grand Inquisitor, "Son io dinanzi al Rè?"
COUNT OF LERMA [entering]: The Grand Inquisitor!
[LERMA exits. The GRAND INQUISITOR, blind, 90, enters supported by two Dominicans.]
GRAND INQUISITOR: Am I before the king?
KING PHILIP: Yes, I had you called, father. I am in doubt.
Carlos has filled my heart with bitter sadness,
the Infante has rebelled in arms against his father.
GRAND INQUISITOR: What have you decided to do about him?
KING PHILIP: Everything … or nothing!
GRAND INQUISITOR: Explain yourself!
KING PHILIP: He must go away … or by the sword …
GRAND INQUISITOR: Well then?
KING PHILIP: If I strike down the Infante, will your hand absolve me?
GRAND INQUISITOR: The peace of the world is worth the blood of a son.
KING PHILIP: Can I as a Christian sacrifice my son to the world?
GRAND INQUISITOR: God sacrificed his own, to save us all.
KING PHILIP: Can you justify in all cases such a harsh faith?
GRAND INQUISITOR: Wherever a Christian follows the faith of Calvary.
KING PHILIP: Will the ties of nature and blood remain silent in me?
GRAND INQUISITOR: Everything bows and is silent when faith speaks!
KING PHILIP: It is well!
GRAND INQUISITOR: King Philip II has nothing more to say to me?
KING PHILIP: No!
GRAND INQUISITOR: Then I shall speak to you, Sire!
In this beautiful land, untainted by heresy,
a man dares to undermine the divine order.
He is a friend of the King, his intimate confidant,
the tempting demon who is pushing him to the brink.
The criminal intent of which you accuse the Infante
is but child's play compared with his,
and I, the Inquisitor, I, as long as I raise

against obscure criminals the hand which wields the sword,
while forgoing my wrath against those with power in the world,
I let live in peace this great wrongdoer . . . and you!
KING PHILIP: To see us through the days of trial in which we live,
I have sought in my court, that vast desert of men,
a man, a sure friend . . . and I have found him!
GRAND INQUISITOR: Why a man?
And by what right do you call yourself King,

Sire, if you have equals?
KING PHILIP: Be quiet, priest!
GRAND INQUISITOR: The spirit of the reformers already enters your soul!

You wish to throw off with your feeble hand
the holy yoke which covers the Roman universe!
Return to your duty! The Church, like a good mother,
can still embrace a sincere penitent.
Deliver the Marquis of Posa to us!
KING PHILIP: No, never!
GRAND INQUISITOR: O King, if I were not here, in this palace
today, by the living God, tomorrow you yourself,

you would be before us at the supreme tribunal!
KING PHILIP: Priest! I have suffered your criminal audacity for too long!
GRAND INQUISITOR: Why do you evoke the shade of Samuel?
I have given two kings to this mighty empire,
my whole life's work, you want to destroy it . . .
What did I come here for? What do you want of me?
[He starts to leave.]
KING PHILIP: My father, may peace be restored between us.
GRAND INQUISITOR [continuing to move off]: Peace?
KING PHILIP: Let the past be forgotten!
GRAND INQUISITOR [at the door, as he leaves]: Perhaps!
KING PHILIP: The pride of the King withers before the pride of the priest!
In Italian

Paul Franke (t), Count of Lerma; Jerome Hines (bs), Grand Inquisitor; Cesare Siepi (bs), King Philip; Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, Fritz Stiedry, cond. Live performance, Nov. 11, 1950

Paul Franke (t), Count of Lerma; Hans Hotter (bs-b), Grand Inquisitor; Jerome Hines (bs), King Philip; Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, Fritz Stiedry, cond. Live performance, Apr. 5, 1952

Franco Piva (t), Count of Lerma; Ivo Vinco (bs), Grand Inquisitor; Boris Christoff (bs), King Philip; Orchestra of the Teatro alla Scala, Gabriele Santini, cond. DG, recorded July and Sept. 1961

Sergio Baldi (t), Count of Lerma; Antonio Zerbini (bs), Grand Inquisitor; Nicola Rossi-Lemeni (bs), King Philip II; NHK Symphony Orchestra (Tokyo), Oliviero de Fabritiis, cond. Telecast performance, Sept. 2, 1967

Ewald Aichberger (t), Count of Lerma; Martti Talvela (bs), Grand Inquisitor; Nicolai Ghiaurov (bs), King Philip; Vienna State Opera Orchestra, Horst Stein, cond. Live performance, 1970

Dwayne Croft (b), Count of Lerma; Samuel Ramey (bs), Grand Inquisitor; Ferruccio Furlanetto (bs), King Philip; Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, James Levine, cond. Sony, recorded Apr.-May 1992

In French

Tibere Raffalli (t), Count of Lerma; Nicolai Ghiaurov (bs), Grand Inquisitor; Ruggero Raimondi (bs), King Philip; Orchestra of the Teatro alla Scala, Claudio Abbado, cond. DG, recorded 1983-84

Scot Weir (t), Count of Lerma; Eric Halfvarson (bs), Grand Inquisitor; José van Dam (bs-b), King Philip; Orchestre de Paris, Antonio Pappano, cond. EMI, recorded live at the Théâtre du Châtelet, March 1996
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