VERDI: Luisa Miller
VERDI: Il Corsaro
VERDI: La Battaglia di Legnano
Luisa Miller, written in 1849, was Verdi's 15th opera. The plot is Italian melodrama at its peak. The beautiful Luisa Miller is in lover with the young man Carlo, but he actually is Rodolfo, son of Count Walter—and Rudolfo is supposed to wed the wealthy countess Frederica. The courtier Wurm lusts after Luisa, and tells her father, a retired soldier, the identity of Carlo, which upsets him greatly. Miller is imprisoned, Wurm tells Luisa her father can be saved only if she writes a letter saying she loves Wurm and has tricked Rodolfo, which she agrees to do. In the final scene, Rodolfo has seen the letter and visits Luisa to confront her. He poisons a glass of water, drinks from it after she admits she did write the letter, and invites her to drink as well. He then tells her both of them have been poisoned. Now, as she is dying, she can tell Rodolfo that the letter was not true, that she was forced to write it to save her father. The opera ends with the appearance of Wurm who is killed by Rodolfo after which he and Luisa die. This Parma production is excellent in many ways. Sets, scenery and costumes have been updated but not offensively so. Fiorenza Cedolins has many admirers, but, for whatever reason, didn't go over well at the Met, singing three Butterflies in 2001, five Aidas in 2004. Her voice can be exciting , but it is not totally controlled, often with traces of off-pitch singing. However overall she is impressive as the unfortunate Luisa, and Marcelo Alvarez is in top voice as Rudolfo. Veteran Leo Nucci sings the role of Miller with authority, and Rafal Siwer is a sinister Wurm. Video and audio work well. This site mentioned a forgettable Teatro La Fenice Luisa Miller (REVIEW), and outlines available CDs of the opera.
Il Corsaro was composed in 1848, a year before La Battaglia de Legano and Luisa Miller. The libretto, by Francesco Maria Piave, is based on Lord Byron's poem The Corsair. It takes place in the early 1880s on a Greek island in the Aegean and the Turkish city Corone. The plot is relatively simple. Corrado, head of the pirates, is in love with the beautiful young woman Medora. but feels he must leave to battle the Turks. Act II takes place in Pasha Seid's harem where slaves are attending to his favorite, Gulnara, who hates him and wants to leave. During festivities in the harem, Corrado appears and decides to rescue Gulnara and the other women; however, he is captured and condemned to death. Gulnara visits Corrado in prison and wants him to kill Seid, but he refuses and tells her his true love is Medora. Gulnara kills Seid, Corrado and Gulnara escape to the island where they find Medora who, in despair, has taken poison convinced she has lost her lover. He explains to her how Gulnara helped him to escape, but it is too late—Medodra dies and Corrado dramatically leaps off a cliff to his death, which does seem rather stupid—but remember, this is opera.And he doesn't jump off a cliff, he climbs a ladder. This performance is an excellent one, with exceptional costumes. The single set is the deck of a ship, altered for different scenes works well, and all of the young singers are first-rate, particularly soprano who is dazzling vocally as the exotic slave. Excellent video and audio. This is a splendid issue, highly recommended!
La Battaglia di Legnano was composed immediately after Luisa Miller, and there are many similarities in the plot: a letter written to save someone, suspected infidelities, and multiple deaths. The opera is patriotic, attempting to show the importance of Italian art masterpieces symbolizing the cultural identity of Italy in resistance to invading forces. This production opens in a museum in which we see some of Italy's art treasures being protected and restored, and it ends with the same vision. Milan is being protected from German invasion by the Lombardi League which includes Rolando and Arrigo,. The latter was engaged to Lida, but when word was received that Arrigo was killed in battle, she married Rolando, and they had a child. Of course in opera one must overlook the obvious. Rolando and Arrigo were friends in battle, but these friends apparently never discussed wives and lovers, so neither knew of the other's relationship with Lida. As Rolando leaves for battle, he asks Arrigo to take care of his wife and son in case he doesn't return. When Lida discovers Arrigo still lives, she writes a letter asking to see him. Of course Rolando sees the letter, accuses Lida of infidelity and as their punishment the two must live in the shame of not being allowed to fight for the fatherland (!). However, Arrigoi does join the troops, is mortally wounded in battle and in the final scene is reconciled with Rolando and Lida. For this scenario Verdi has written some glorious music, reasonably well conveyed in this performance recorded in Teatro Lirico "Giuseppe Verdi" di Trieste in February/March 2012, a small venue that doesn't allow much in the way of scenery. Ruggero Cappuccio was stage director and didn't direct very much; the chorus and singers sort of just stand there and sing. As there is no actual battle scene in this opera, we are spared that spectacle in this forgettable production. The two leading men are excellent. American tenor Andrew Richards, at the beginning of a promising career, easily negotiates his demanding role, and is handsome, a definite plus. Another young singer, baritone Leonardo López Linares, impresses as Rolando. The veteran here is soprano Dimitra Theodossiou, well established as a Verdi/Bellini singer, but this is not one of her better performances. La Battaglia di Legnano is one of the least-performed of all operas; it's easy to understand why, particularly when performed as it is here. Audience response was, understandably, less than enthusiastic. Video and audio are OK.
R.E.B. (March 2013)