Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

The “Other” Marriage of Figaro in a West Village Townhouse

Last week an audience of 50 assembled in the kitchen of a luxurious West Village townhouse for a performance of Marriage of Figaro.

West Wind: A new song-cycle by Sally Beamish

In a recent article in BBC Music Magazine tenor James Gilchrist reflected on the reason why early-nineteenth-century England produced no corpus of art song to match the German lieder of Schumann, Schubert and others, despite the great flowering of English Romantic poetry during this period.

Florencia en el Amazonas, NYCO

With the New York Premiere of Florencia en el Amazonas, the New York City Opera Steps Out of the Shadows of the Past

Idomeneo, re di Creta, Garsington

Opportunities to see Idomeneo are not so frequent as they might be, certainly not so frequent as they should be.

Don Carlo in San Francisco

Not merely Don Carlo, but the five-act Don Carlo in the 1886 Modena version! The welcomed esotericism of San Francisco Opera’s extraordinary spring season.

Jenůfa in San Francisco

The early summer San Francisco Opera season has the feel of a classy festival. There is an introduction of Spanish director Calixto Bieito to American audiences, a five-act Don Carlo and two awaited, inevitable role debuts, Karita Mattila as Kostelnička and Malin Bystrom as Janacek's Jenůfa.

Musings on the “American Ring

Now that the curtain has long fallen on the third and last performance of the Ring cycle at the Washington National Opera (WNO), it is safe to say that the long-anticipated production has been an unqualified success for the company, director Francesca Zambello, and conductor Philippe Auguin.

Nabucco, Covent Garden

Most of the attention during this revival of Daniele Abbado’s 2013 production of Nabucco has been directed at Plácido Domingo’s reprise of the title role, with the critical reception somewhat mixed.

Tristan, English National Opera

My first Tristan, indeed my first Wagner, in the theatre was ENO’s previous staging of the work, twenty years ago, in 1996. The experience, as it should, as it must, although this is alas far from a given, quite overwhelmed me.

The Cunning Little Vixen, Glyndebourne

Four years ago, almost to the day (13th to 12th), I saw Melly Still’s production of The Cunning Little Vixen during its first Glyndebourne run. I found myself surprised how much more warmly I responded to it this time.

London: A 90th birthday tribute to Horovitz

This recital celebrated both the work of the Park Lane Group, which has been supporting the careers of outstanding young artists for 60 years, and the 90th birthday of Joseph Horovitz, who was born in Vienna in 1926 and emigrated to England aged 12.

Opera Las Vegas: A Blazing Carmen in the Desert

Headed by General Director Luana DeVol, a world-renowned dramatic soprano, Opera Las Vegas is a relatively new company that presents opera with first-rate casts at the University of Las Vegas’s Judy Bayley Theater. In 2014 they presented Rossini’s The Barber of Seville and in 2015, Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. This year they offered a blazing rendition of Georges Bizet’s Carmen.

La bohème, Opera Holland Park

Ever since a friend was reported as having said he would like something in return for modern-dress Shakespeare (how quaint that term seems now, as if anyone would bat an eyelid!), namely an Elizabethan-dress staging of Look Back in Anger, I have been curious about the possibilities of ‘down-dating’, as I suppose we might call it. Rarely, if ever, do we see it, though.

Holland Festival: Alban Berg’s Wozzeck, Amsterdam

Leading a very muscular Dutch Radio Philharmonic, Principal Conductor Markus Stenz brilliantly delivered Alban Berg’s Wozzeck with a superb Florian Boesch in the lead and a mesmerising Asmik Grigorian as Marie his wife.

Lalo: Complete Songs

Edouard Lalo (1823-92) is best known today for his instrumental works: the Symphonie espagnole (which is, despite the title, a five-movement violin concerto), the Symphony in G Minor, and perhaps some movements from his ballet Namouna, a scintillating work that the young Debussy adored.

Pietro Mascagni: Iris

There can’t be that many operas that start with an extended solo for double bass. At Holland Park, the eerie, angular melody for lone bass player which opens Pietro Mascagni’s Iris immediately unsettled the relaxed mood of the summer evening.

L’italiana in Algeri, Garsington Opera

George Souglides’ set for Will Tuckett’s new production of Rossini’s L’italiana in Algeri at Garsington would surely have delighted Liberace.

Carmen in San Francisco

Calixto Bieito is always news, Carmen with a good cast is always news. So here is the news.

Eugene Onegin, Garsington Opera

Distinguished theatre director Michael Boyd’s first operatic outing was his brilliant re-invention of Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo for the Royal Opera at the Roundhouse in 2015, so what he did next was always going to rouse interest.

Bohuslav Martinů’s Ariane and Alexandre bis

Although Bohuslav Martinů’s short operas Ariane and Alexandre bis date from 1958 and 1937 respectively, there was a distinct tint of 1920s Parisian surrealism about director Rodula Gaitanou’s double bill, as presented by the postgraduate students of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

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):