Critics Praise Leonardo Capalbo as Don Carlos

Leonardo Capalbo Hailed in Tour-de-Force Don Carlos at Opera Vlaanderen


Leonardo Capalbo as Don Carlos. photo by Annemie Augustijns

Leonardo Capalbo as Don Carlos. photo by Annemie Augustijns

“[Stage director Johan] Simons risks to keep the infante on stage for the entire night. Don Carlos sits, walks, is silent or sings and does so in, on or next to the crib that he carries with him. Physically, this Carlos is not a fool. He comes straight out of the gym, a T-shirt strapped around the torso of the virile tenor Leonardo Capalbo. Carlos's appearance exudes power, from the inside he is a dreamer. In the depth of his mind, he tinkers within a world without human footing. Watch him lug around geometric objects, they become more and more beautiful shapes and colors.”

-Guido van Oorschot, de Volkskrant, September 2019


“It is a fine piece of acting by the American tenor Leonardo Capalbo who puts as fluent a legato in his singing as in his movements.”

-Sylvia Broeckaert, Het Journaal, September 2019

“Johan Simons comes from the theater and you can tell. He knows how to lead his singers, especially in Leonardo Capalbo he has an ideal young Don Carlos. Capalbo is an excellent tenor who dominates the demanding role of Don Carlos.”

-Hans Reul, BRF, September 2019

“Tenor Leonardo Capalbo, singing quite smoothly, is a driving force in the title role.”

-Mischa Spel, nrc.nl, September 2019

“We see the spry Italian-American tenor Leonardo Capalbo, a Don Carlos in a white T-shirt, constantly busy with the props. He relives all key moments as dream scenes in his confused universe. His immature spirit finds a symbol in a bed and a large box of blocks with enormous toys, propelled in dance.”

-Geert Van Der Speeten, De Stanaard, September 2019

Leonardo Capalbo and Mary Elizabeth Williams in a scene from  Don Carlos . photo by Annemie Augustijns

Leonardo Capalbo and Mary Elizabeth Williams in a scene from Don Carlos. photo by Annemie Augustijns

[Johan] Simons lets Carlos hang out on stage for almost the entire evening, wearing simple clothes, barefoot, touching on to the other characters (even his father), lugging and rolling with stage pieces. He depicts a kind of hallucinating state just before Carlos's death. Fortunately, tenor Leonardo Capalbo is in physical form and possesses a pleasing appearance that can easily handle such a long exposure. He also sings very well. When Capalbo suddenly comes on the stage during the big auto da fe scene, the public spectacle where heretics enter the stake, he has a burning torch in his hands. Because Simons has omitted all stage attributes until that time, that very present burning torch suddenly becomes a daunting image after two hours. Dangerous. Not the heretics burn, but the idealist Carlos is on fire. And Simons has more in store for Carlos. Finally, when Carlos' grandfather Charles V takes him to the better world of the afterlife, Simons lets his Carlos look into the theater in front of the stage in the midst of choir members in normal clothing. The afterlife, it seems to me, Carlos seems to be saying here under the authority of Simons. If I want to mean something, I have to do it here and now.

-Peter van der Lint, Trouw, September 2019

“At the beginning of the opera, Don Carlos [Leonardo Capalbo] is lying on an iron bed in a monastery. His life is over. Repulsed by his father, consumed by the impossible love for his stepmother. He seems to close his eyes for a moment. A glimpse into the room, an invitation to relive his terrible life with him. You step inside his tormented head to look over his suffering like a crown witness. In addition, geometric figures constantly appear: cylinders, prisms, spheres and circles. Don Carlos constantly plays with it. As if he is still a child who plays with the blocks and never grew up. Which was also the case in real life. The man was a little behind mentally. The bed with the iron bars is constantly coming back. It looks like the child's bed that Don Carlos has never outgrown. You can view it as well as a metaphor for the prison of life in which the king's son found himself. A small arm movement, a raised eyebrow, a sigh. You feel the pain of every character for four hours. When the curtain falls, Don Carlos is gone. But he will wander in everyone's head for a long time to come.”

-Koen Van Boxem, De Tijd, September 2019

“[Johan] Simons makes exceptional physical demands on Leonardo Capalbo’s Carlos. Not only was Capalbo on stage throughout the four-hour long evening, he didn’t stop moving throughout – whether running around the auditorium, pulling Flemish deputies along the floor, and observing events…Capalbo brought Italianate ardour to the title role, singing with generous abandon and virile, full-throated tone. He gave so much of himself to us, both vocally and physically, never holding back.”

-operatraveller.com, September 2019

“Psychoanalysis and politics come together on the basis of the work itself: Don Carlos [Leonardo Capalbo] suffers from the Oedipus complex. In love with his step-mother, he tries to forget it by devoting himself to the defense of Flanders, but then he enters into a double conflict (political and sentimental) with his father. To represent this aspect and all these issues, the story is here seen exclusively through the psyche, the psychoanalyzed dream of a Don Carlos adult-infant, a tall baby rising in his crib like a child who wants to finish his nap, who wants to come out of this nightmare.

The drama is thus lived through the torment of Don Carlos and approached via the trauma of the separation which brings about a nostalgic flashback to each meeting, abolishing the continuity of time, place and action (even more than it is not already in this book and the genre of opera).

Dream of love and heroism, taboo fantasy, nightmare: all these universes must be composed by the tenor Leonardo Capalbo in the role of Don Carlos. Constantly barefoot and in his pajamas (even to cross the forest), he must implore with suffering tearfulness at the same time as he waves an Olympic torch to proclaim himself the savior of the Flemish people. His dramatic and vocal performance is constantly intense and powerful. The overall effect relies upon a lower register of baritonal weight with covered high notes. The ensemble of the whole line breathes as strong and sharp edged: rendering from beginning to end the inner nature of his characterization. In addition, his use of articulation reflects a clear work on French prose.”

-Charles Arden, Olyrix, September 2019

Leonardo Capalbo as Don Carlos. photo by Annemie Augustijns

Leonardo Capalbo as Don Carlos. photo by Annemie Augustijns

“The idea of the Dutch Director [Johan Simons] is that the Infante of Spain retraces the steps of his life’s sad love affairs, disturbed by matters of State. Interweaving dream with reality is the excellent Leonardo Capalbo who interprets him naturalistically, ever present upon the stage, for over three hours of opera, alternating his own parts of the score with moments in which he instead acts as an invisible observer of the surrounding facts, but also as a spectator who does not limit himself to being passive but moves the elements of the scenography almost as if he wanted to intervene throughout the course of the story. 

The young Italian-American tenor Leonardo Capalbo gives an intense interpretation, displaying a voice of beautiful timbre, ringing tone and of ideal potency, particularly melodious, so much so that in the duets he contributes greatly to make them more pleasurable.”

-Alma Torretta, Il giornale della musica, September 2019

“Fortunately Johan Simons has Leonardo Capalbo as Don Carlos. He is constantly on the stage as a result of the dramaturgical idea. He walks about the scene as if he were always at home there: he shifts the props as the best stage hand. He is especially busy with a number of beds on wheels. It is a pleasure to watch him by the way he walks around, listens, gestures with his arms. All this silent play commands admiration. But opera is about singing. As a singing prince, he is just as convincing across the board: passionately and painfully propelling the performance musically in all his arias. The Don Carlos of Leonardo Capalbo is very convincing.”

-Johan Thielemans, Pzazz, September 2019

”The tenor Leonardo Capalbo is a valiant Don Carlos, with an undeniable dramatic temperament and unquestionable vocal health: a greater range of nuances would be advantageous, but what sonorous presence and what scenic veracity!”

-Benedict Hévry, Resmusica, September 2019

“The role of Don Carlos is itself a magical feat from Leonardo Capalbo, who is constantly on stage. After all, the production is conceived in such a way that the whole story takes place in his mind. Like a dream or flashback? In any case, he sees everything happening again. Furthermore, there is only praise for Capalbo's performance: he sings with a clear tenor voice, excellent diction and captivates as well as yearning lover (the aforementioned Fontainebleau scene and the gripping farewell of Elisabeth at the end of the opera), but also as a militant rebel (auto da fe scene) and as a sincere friend - in one of those other highlights of the show: his visit from friend Rodrigue while imprisoned. Apart from the context of "memories" in which Carlos is placed here, we experience him as a sensitive young man, not an instigator, but a tragic figure.“

-Lucrèce Maeckelbergh, Klassiek Centraal, September 2019

“In the title role, the Italian-American tenor Leonardo Capalbo stands out as an interpreter of choice in this repertoire: compared to the time when we heard him in a role like Ismaele (Nabucco in Geneva in 2014), the timbre has undeniably gained in size, and his phrasing in relevance. The acting is all the more amazing as he is omnipresent on stage, always truthful and touching at the same time.”

-Emmanuel Andrieu, Opera Online, September 2019

“The Italian-American tenor Leonardo Capalbo gives his youth all the tragic magnitude needed - even if it turns out that the true Charles of Austria had nothing of the romantic hero: product of repeated incestuous unions, he was deformed, epileptic and cruel.”

-Valerie Colin, L’Echo, September 2019

“The Italian-American Leonardo Capalbo is an impressive title character, who smashes the most powerful notes from the most unthinkable positions, which he has to occupy as a madman in beds and between building blocks. With never-ending strength, he brings the prince to life on the verge of madness, and is also capable of fine piani and impresses me deeply in his nuanced interpretation of the role.”

-Jochen Rüth, Der Opern Freund, September 2019

“Above all, the American tenor Leonardo Capalbo as Don Carlos, whose role vocally and dramatically equaled a marathon. Johan Simons demanded a lot from his title hero, who was on the stage continuously during the almost four-hour evening - always on the move, watching and acting. Vocally, however, he was without reproach and sang to the end with radiant, emotional voice and charismatic heights.”

-Alexandra Richter, Das OpernMagazin, September 2019

“Leonardo Capalbo valiantly assumes his role as extraverted idealist with a beautiful well-produced lyric tenor and excellent French diction. The staging obviously pushes him to the extreme though one can not reproach him for somewhat uniformly strong singing which he aims to nuance whenever possible.” 

-Alfred Caron, Avant Scène Opéra, October 2019