OPERA NEWS - Luisa Miller
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In Review > North America

Luisa Miller

The Metropolitan Opera

In Review Met Mulan hdl 618
Sonya Yoncheva, Plácido Domingo and Piotr Beczała in the Met’s Luisa Miller
© Johan Elbers

THE VOICE WAS KING in the Met’s starry Luisa Miller revival. As remounted by Gregory Keller, Elijah Moshinsky’s seventeen-year-old staging struck no particular theatrical sparks, although Santo Loquasto’s Dickensian sets remain effectively gloomy. But on April 2, the second performance, Verdi’s vocal writing provided all the dramatic impetus the piece needed. Alexander Vinogradov, as Walter, may have simply planted himself center stage to sing his Act I aria “Il mio sangue, la vita darei,” but the striding vocal lines, boldly declaimed, told all we needed to know about the perfidious count: directorial underlining would have been beside the point.

Sonya Yoncheva, in the title role, moved beautifully, but the character took shape chiefly through her vocal portrayal. Her voice is not only plangently beautiful (especially in its middle reaches), it has a true human core—a “face.” You could hear Luisa’s vulnerability in the sound of the voice alone. But Yoncheva also suggested plenty of prima-donna temperament, as when in a single word to Wurm—“Che!”—she summoned outrage, defiance and defeat simultaneously. More incisive articulation of the Italian text might have lent more impetus to fast-moving passages. But this was an extraordinarily sympathetic performance.

Piotr Beczała had a spectacular success as Rodolfo. His voice has expanded in recent seasons, its innate lyricism now infused with a vein of metal. He is still a supremely elegant singer, realizing at the end of the Act III “Piangi” duet an effect very few tenors can deliver—a floated, but not falsetto, high G. But the vocalism was nonetheless on a heroic scale, and in his show-stopping delivery of “Quando le sere al placido,” he summoned a century-and-a-half-long tradition of great Verdi singing.

Plácido Domingo, who was in 1979 the first Rodolfo I ever heard, here took the baritone role of Miller. His breath was shorter than in days gone by; moreover, the structure of his instrument remains that of a tenor, and he moved uneasily through the role’s lower-lying stretches. But higher up, he sang with a voice uncannily well preserved, its essential beauty unblemished. The spectacle of Domingo’s astounding endurance, well into his sixth decade on the stage, pretty much eclipsed any sense that we were watching a portrayal of a peasant and soldier. But it was thrilling to hear him, the voice producing the excitement so well remembered from days gone by.

The bass of Dmitry Belosselskiy, as Wurm, was well contrasted with Vinogradov’s: the count’s tone was cultivated, his henchman’s raw and black. Olesya Petrova was the duchess Federica, the plushness of her mezzo-soprano conveying aristocratic entitlement. Bertrand de Billy occasionally took tempos too fast for his orchestra; for instance, he made the winds scramble in the jaunty minuet accompanying Federica’s entrance. But he conveyed the piece’s somber essence—and its crackling excitement as well.  —Fred Cohn 

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