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Wagner's Ring Cycle, a set of four operas, is widely regarded as the longest opera written. But it's very rarely, if ever, performed back to back these days. The final of the four, Götterdümmerung clocks in at nearly five hours, without intermission.

That said, as far as long opera's go, both this week's (Don Carlo) and last (Parsifal) are up there in terms of length. In fact, any travel advice on surviving a long flight can easily be applied to anyone heading to the Met in New York this Saturday and settling in for the long haul: Drink plenty of water, avoid alcohol and stretch whenever possible.

But here's the thing about a radio opera broadcast. No need to stay seated. You can easily move about, do the dishes, mop the kitchen floor, even head out to do a few errands all still basking in the length and glory of this operatic long haul flight.

Don Carlo started off with an extra "s." It was Don Carlos, written in French and first performed in Paris. It didn't exactly take off for Verdi. It was an Italian reworking some years later that gave Don Carlo some legs. Since then it's become quite popular (and most often performed in Italian). Although it's not among Verdi's most performed operas (it ranks as number 10 according to operabase.com) it still is in the world's top 50.

This 2013 Metropolitan Opera Don Carlo is star studded.

Barbara Frittoli: Elisabeth de Valois
Anna Smirnova: Princess Eboli
Ramón Vargas: Don Carlo
Dmitri Hvorostovsky: Rodrigo, Count of Posa
Ferruccio Furlanetto: Philip II
Eric Halfvarson: Grand Inquisitor

Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Chorus
Lorin Maazel, conductor

N.B. Given its length, this edition of Saturday Afternoon at the Opera goes to 6 PM ET, pre-empting Deep Roots

Related:

Here's a synopsis, in case you want to figure out what's going on.

Here's a link to an English libretto translation

Here's a link to a 1983 Metropolitan Opera performance featuring Placido Domingo, Mirella Freni, Grace Bumbry and Canadian Louis Quilico.

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Frittoli, Smirnova and Hvorostovsky star in Verdi’s Don Carlo

Wagner's Ring Cycle, a set of four operas, is widely regarded as the longest opera written. But it's…

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Derek Lindner
#1 posted by
Derek Lindner
on Mar 06, 2013

Thanks for mentioning the Carlos version, it's my favourite just because I like

that language sung more than Italian. Which version is statistically longer?

Matthew McFarlane
#2 posted by
Matthew McFarlane
on Mar 06, 2013

good question! Hard to know as there are few recordings of the original French version, and the only modern one out there is a bit of a mish-mash of various versions. It went through so many revisions and cuts (even at the premiere, it kept getting hacked back) it might be hard to figure out. It was common to do a 4 act version, but the 5 act 1883 version has become standard nowadays. 

Derek Lindner
#3 posted by
Derek Lindner
on Mar 09, 2013

Thanks for the details Matthew, it was interesting as well what I think it was Bass Furianetto said about the Italian version being more "in the ground, rooted where the Mediterranean people are" and that the French is more humming, and was only for the money. Verdi was smart, I'd still pay to see it. Ira said Don Caro is his favourite, mine's Ernani, what are others'.

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