Cedolins, Franci; M. Álvarez, Nucci, Surian, Siwek; Chorus and Orchestra of Teatro Regio di Parma, Renzetti. Production: Krief. C Major 722808 (DVD) or 722904 (Blu-ray), 147 mins. (opera), 10 mins. (bonus), subtitled
This 2007 Verdi Festival production from Parma's Teatro Regio of Verdi's fourteenth opera will prove to be a high point of the ongoing "Tutto Verdi" series. All six principal roles are strongly sung and played, especially the three leading ones, by Fiorenza Cedolins (Luisa), Marcelo Álvarez (Rodolfo) and Leo Nucci (Miller).
Starting with scintillating staccatos and trills as joyful Luisa celebrates her birthday, Cedolins in voice and person meets every demand as the plot, driven by class conflict, blackmail and apparent betrayal, grows ever grimmer; her Act III prayer is exquisite perfection. Over the rippling clarinet arpeggios of "Quando le sere al placido" and elsewhere, Álvarez sings with beauty and feeling, placing sorrow ahead of anger and jealousy, in a performance as fine as any I've heard from him. Whether singing the staccato sixteenth-notes of the Act I cabaletta or the many legato passages Verdi gave Miller, Nucci, sixty-five at the time of the recording, is consistently firm of voice, supremely expressive of face, and he movingly conveys Miller's love and anxiety for his daughter.
The drama's two heavies are well contrasted: Giorgio Surian sings Count Walter in a powerful, open bass-baritone with a big vibrato; Rafal Siwek sings the dastardly Wurm in a middleweight, covered, secure bass. Mezzo-soprano Francesca Franci sings and plays a handsome Federica. The chorus is only fair, the orchestra better but not first-rate. Conductor Donato Renzetti excels, especially in pacing Act III, much the strongest of Luisa Miller'sthree acts.
Denis Krief, the stage director and set, costume and lighting designer, places the action in the late-nineteenth century. Act I rings false at the beginning, with friends who sing to Luisa paired off in slow-dancing couples, and at the end, when they jump for joy even though the situation remains dire. Krief's direction of the principals is effective, as is his differentiation of the two classes: the chorus of nobles wears white, Duchess Federica red, Count Walter fur, backed by cold white and black geometric shapes; the peasants, meanwhile, sport warm earth tones, backed by rustic wood paneling and lovely projections of trees shimmering in the breeze. The worlds intersect when Count Walter enters Miller's cottage with henchmen who suggest fascist goons. Birthday candles in the first scene are balanced by funereal candles in the last.
Video director Andrea Dorigo goes overboard with closeups that seem repetitive (Renzetti in the pit), intrusive (Nucci eyeballing the loggionisti) or inexplicable (Luisa's feet).
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