Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

Nabucco in Novi Sad

After the horrors of Jagoš Marković’s production of Le Nozze di Figaro in Belgrade, I was apprehensive lest Nabucco in Serbia’s second city of Novi Sad on 27th October would be transplanted from 6th century BC Babylon to post-Saddam Hussein Tikrit or some bombed-out kibbutz in Beersheba.

La Bohème in San Francisco

First Toronto, then Houston and now San Francisco, the third stop of a new production of Puccini's La bohème by Canadian born, British nurtured theater director John Caird.

Radvanovsky Sings Recital in Los Angeles

Every once in a while Los Angeles Opera presents an important recital in the three thousand seat Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

L’elisir d’amore, Royal Opera

This third revival of Laurent Pelly’s production of Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore needed a bit of a pep up to get moving but once it had been given a shot of ‘medicinal’ tincture things spiced up nicely.

Samling Showcase, Wigmore Hall

Founded in 1996, Samling describes itself as a charity which ‘inspires musical excellence in young people’.

La cenerentola in San Francisco

The good news is that you don’t have to go all the way to Pesaro for great Rossini.

Rameau: Maître à danser — William Christie, Barbican London

Maître à danser: William Christie and Les Arts Florissants at the Barbican, London, presented a defining moment in Rameau performance practice, choreographed with a team of dancers.

Le Nozze di Figaro — or Sex on the Beach?

The most memorable thing (and definitely not in a good way) about this performance of Le Nozze di Figaro at the Serbian National Theatre in Belgrade was the self-serving, infantile, offensive and just plain wrong production by celebrated Serbian theatre director Jagoš Marković.

The Met mounts a well sung but dramatically unconvincing ‘Carmen’

Should looks matter when casting the role of the iconic temptress for HD simulcast?

Maurice Greene’s Jephtha

Maurice Greene (1696-1755) had a highly successful musical career. Organist of St. Paul’s Cathedral, a position to which he was elected when he was just 22 years-old, he later became organist of the Chapel Royal, Professor of Music at the University of Cambridge and, from 1735, Master of the King’s Music.

Tosca in San Francisco

Yet another Tosca is hardly exciting news, if news at all. The current five performances have come just two years after SFO alternated divas Angela Gheorghiu and Patricia Racette in the title role.

Antonin Dvořák: The Cunning Peasant (Šelma Sedlák)

What an enjoyable opportunity to encounter Dvořák’s sixth opera, Šelma Sedlák¸or The Cunning Peasant!

Idomeneo, Royal Opera

Whether biblical parable or mythological moralising, it’s all the same really: human hubris, humility, sacrifice and redemption.

Donizetti’s Les Martyrs — Opera Rara, London

Opera Rara brought a rare performance of Donizetti’s first opera for the Paris Opera to the Royal Festival Hall on 4 November 2014, following recording sessions for the opera.

Luca Pisaroni in San Diego

Bass baritone, Luca Pisaroni, known to opera lovers throughout the world for his excellence in Mozart roles, offered San Diego vocal aficionados a double treat on October 28th: his mellifluous voice, and a recital of German songs.

La bohème, ENO

Jonathan Miller’s production of La bohème for ENO, shared with Cincinnati Opera, sits uneasily, at least as revived by Natascha Metherell, between comedy and tragedy.

Florian Boesch, Wigmore Hall - Liszt, Strauss and Schubert

Any Florian Boesch and Malcolm Martineau performance is superb, but this Wigmore Hall recital surprised, too. Boesch's Schubert is wonderful, but this time, it was his Liszt and Strauss songs which stood out. This year at the Wigmore Hall, we've heard a lot of Liszt and a lot of Richard Strauss everywhere, establishing high standards, but this was special.

Wexford Festival 2014

The weather was auspicious for Wexford Festival Opera’s first-night firework display — mild, clear and calm. But, as the rainbow rockets exploded over the River Slaney, even bigger bangs were being made down at the quayside.

The Met’s ‘Le Nozze di Figaro’ a happy marriage of ensemble singing and acting

The cast of supporting roles was especially strong in the company’s new production of Mozart’s matchless masterpiece

Syracuse Opera’s ‘Die Fledermaus’ bubbles over with fun, laughter and irresistible music

The company uncorks its 40th Anniversary season with a visually and musically satisfying production of Johann Strauss Jr.’s farcical operetta

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Giuseppe Verdi: Luisa Miller
17 Aug 2009

Verdi: Luisa Miller

On a good night an opera performance can come across with visceral excitement without a classy production, top-name singers, or the benefit of being of one of the more familiar titles.

Giuseppe Verdi: Luisa Miller

Luisa (Darina Takova); Rodolfo (Giuseppe Sabbatini); Il conte di Walter (Alexander Vinogradov); Miller (Damiano Salerno); Federica (Ursula Ferri); Wurm (Arutjun Kotchinian); Laura (Elisabetta Martorana); Un Contadino (Luca Favaron). Teatro La Fenice Chorus. Teatro La Fenice Orchestra. Maurizio Benini, conductor. Armaud Bernard, stage director. Alessandro Camera, set design. Filmed at the Teatro La Fenice, Venice, Italy, May 2006

Naxos 2.110225 [2DVDs]

$41.49  Click to buy

Such is the case with this Luisa Miller, staged at the Teatro la Fenice in 2006 and released by Naxos. The singers, in modern dress, perform on abstract sets dominated, for no clear reason, by photographic reproductions on flat columns. The title role is taken by Darina Takova, a hard-working singer but not a star. Her tenor, Giuseppe Sabbatini, has had some big nights in opera houses (and days in the recording studio) in his career, without ever quite establishing himself in the top rank. The rest of the cast even fewer may know of. The opera itself is not Verdi’s most consistently inspired score, though he was approaching his artistic maturity and the music always serves its dramatic purpose - as melodramatic as that may be in Salvatore Cammarano’s adaptation of a Friedrich von Schiller play. But it all comes together, under director Arnaud Bernard and conductor Maurizo Benini’s leadership (on stage and in the pit, respectively). It may not be pretty, but it’s an exciting, engaging Luisa Miller.

What director Bernard wanted from Alessandro Camera’s sets remains unclear - perhaps he simply asked for a prop-less space and had only the budget for the rudimentary backdrops that Camera provides. At least the Count’s home has more of a frame of reference, with the cool lighting (unceredited in the Naxos booklet) outlining a formal space, rather like an underpopulated hospital lobby. The first scene establishes Bernard’s style. As the chorus tries to awake the sleeping Luisa, she lies prone on the stage, with the chorus hovering over her. The vague ominousness of the image foreshadows the cruel and sad events to come, as Luisa is forced to lie and renounce her lover Rodolfo to save her father, because the Count wants his son to marry one Federica. To enforce his nefarious plan, the Count employs Wurm, portaryed with relish by the tall, glowering Arutjun Kotchinian (sene last season in San Diego Opera’s Rigoletto as Sparafucile). Kotchinian has the look, sure, but most importantly, he has the voice - a palpably dark and heavy bass. The La Fenice audience shows him its appreciation at final curtain.

They also warmly applaud Luisa’s father, handsomely sung by Damiano Salerno. All the darker voices impress: Ursula Ferri makes the most of her moments as Federica, and Alexander Vinogradov schemes impressively as the Count.

The leads get big hands too, of course. Rodolfo may be on the heavy side for Sabbatini, but at this point in his career he has the experience and colors to succeed. His act two aria, probably the score’s best known number, goes very well. Takova needs some time to warm up, and she has some challenging music in the first act. After that, she takes command. The drama of the last two acts suits her strong voice, and though she may not look like the youngest daughter the miller could have had, she gets to the heart of the role.

Maurizo Benini supplies tension and drive in the pit, and the Naxos sound - perhaps because the performance is spread over two discs - is remarkably clear and dynamic.

Some may object to the updating, and admittedly, the production can fairly be called drab. But the performance succeeds nonetheless, and as Luisa Miller doesn’t come around all that often, opera fans trying looking for some distraction this summer should check out this Naxos set.

Chris Mullins

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):