Although Verdi finalized this version of 'Don Carlo' for the 1886 production at Modena, the opera had actually premiered a couple of decades earlier and has been presented in several versions of different lengths. It's a dramatically dark work with very little "action" as such, based on a poem by Schiller about the "forbidden" love of the title 16th-century Spanish prince for his father's (King Philip II) young French wife, Elizabeth of Valois.
The tenor, bass and soprano in this recording are at their best in the most emotionally-wrought scenes, of which there are many. Particularly memorable are the Act II declaration of camaraderie between Carlos and his friend Rodrigo, one of the best tenor-baritone duets in all of opera; the rare touch of feminine levity when mezzo Princess Eboli, Elizabeth's friend, joins the page Tybalt (a soprano trouser role) and the chorus of ladies-in-waiting later in that act; and the psychological confrontation of basses when Philip is taken to task by the Grand Inquisitor in Act IV. Hvorostovsky's Rodrigo is compellingly virile yet vulnerable, and Borodina's Eboli is both spirited and buoyant.