In Verdi’s retelling of Shakespeare’s towering tragedy, Renée Fleming gives a captivating performance as the innocent Desdemona, a role long considered one of her calling cards. Johan Botha as the title hero delivers an imposing portrayal of a proud warrior brought down by jealousy, and Falk Struckmann is thrilling as the villainous Iago. James Morris sings Lodovico. Elijah Moshinsky’s production is conducted by Semyon Bychkov.
The legendary Plácido Domingo brings another new baritone role to the Met under the baton of his longtime collaborator James Levine. Liudmyla Monastyrska is Abigaille, the warrior woman determined to rule empires, and Jamie Barton is the heroic Fenena. Dmitri Belosselskiy is the stentorian voice of the oppressed Hebrew people.
Made during confinement, "In My Room" plunges us into the poignant story of a woman at the twilight of her life, through recordings of the director's deceased grandmother. Living rooms become stages where life is performed. Windows become portals to the lives of others.
Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London Live showing of Verdi's Traviata with subsequent re-screenings Violetta, a Parisian courtesan suffering from tuberculosis, is throwing a party to celebrate her recovery. A young nobleman, Alfredo, plans to attend, and has long been in love with Violetta. Before long, Violetta has fallen for him as well, but Alfredo's father disapproves of their relationship. He convinces Violetta to leave Alfredo for the sake of his family's image, not realising how ill she really is. Richard Eyre's production of 'La Traviata' immerses the audience in the indulgence of 19th Century Paris, a vivid setting for Verdi's famous score.
Rigoletto, court jester to the libertine Duke of Mantua, is cursed by the father of one of the Duke’s victims for his irreverent laughter. When the Duke seduces Rigoletto’s daughter Gilda, it seems the curse is taking effect… Rigoletto arranges to have the Duke assassinated. But Gilda still loves the womanizing Duke and sacrifices herself in his place. Rigoletto eagerly uncovers the corpse only to find instead his fatally wounded daughter, who dies in his arms.
Verdi’s admiration for Shakespeare led to such masterpieces as Othello and Falstaff, and if the earlier Macbeth isn’t on their exalted level it’s still a powerfully dramatic opera that hews closely to the original’s story line. The MET’s production retains the dark aura of the opera while updating it to a vaguely post-modern context. So the witches are bag ladies in various stages of decrepitude, with children in tow. The Banquet Scene features lowered chandeliers, a plethora of chairs, and a slew of extras dressed in tuxedos and party gowns. Macbeth sports a leather coat, the soldiers are in drab brown uniforms and seem to have fingers on their triggers even when they’re supposed to be in non-threatening situations. Director Adrian Noble also has Lady Macbeth do an inordinate amount of writhing around and singing from a lying-down position, adding to the feeling that a less interventionist directorial hand might have generated more impact.
The opera's dramatic structure frames and enhances the characters. Scenes of magnificence regularly alternate with scenes of darkness and squalor. From sumptuous interiors, we move to a dark street, a lonely inn. The secondary figures are astutely counterpoised: the plotting courtiers against the plotting Sparafucile and Maddalena (also ambiguously tender-hearted). When Rigoletto says "Pari siamo", he could be expressing the motto of the whole work: the beautiful and the ugly can be equally good, equally evil.
La Scala went all out for its 1986 production of this grandest of grand operas, with a strong cast and, most important for a video recording, a larger-than-life staging. The Triumph Scene in Act II is by no means Aida's only attraction, but it is the part that makes the strongest and most lasting impression and it is the visual and musical climax of this production. Stage director Luca Ronconi brings on a procession to dwarf all processions: looted treasures, heroic statuary, miserable captives struggling under the lash of whip-bearing slave drivers. On par with these visuals is Lorin Maazel's first-class performance of the popular Grand March with the outstanding La Scala chorus and orchestra. In Act III, the contrasting tranquility of the Nile Scene also gets a visual treatment to match the music's qualities.
Any performance of Giuseppe Verdi’s Aida at La Scala, Milan, is guaranteed to be an experience – but, when it’s a new production, it becomes a major event, especially given the theatre’s notoriously critical audience. Legendary stage director Peter Stein succeeds in delivering a lucid production acclaimed in equal measure by the press and public: “a perfect coup de théâtre” (Giornale della musica). A “stellar cast” (La Stampa) contributes to the production’s success under the musical direction of Verdi specialist Zubin Mehta, who leads the orchestra in a “gorgeously colourful performance”, while “the entire ensemble is brilliant in its portrayal of the characters” (Die Presse).
Nabucco, King of Babylon, takes Jerusalem in his war with the Israelites – but his daughter Fenena loves the Israelite Ismaele. She releases their prisoners, leading her vengeful half-sister Abigaille to plot to take power. Nabucco declares himself a god and is struck by a bolt of lightning. Abigaille tricks the now feeble king into signing a death warrant for the Israelites, including Fenena and Ismaele. Nabucco prays to the God of Israel for forgiveness; his sanity is restored and he saves the prisoners from death. He converts himself and his people, while Abigaille commits suicide.
Teatro Regio’s 2013 revival of their highly successful 2006 production of Verdi’s Don Carlo celebrates the 40th anniversary of the theatre’s reopening in 1973. With traditional staging and lavish costume design, the production garnered high acclaim in the national and international press, with GB Opera commending the ‘sumptuous’ setting and French online music magazine ResMusica praising director Hugo de Ana’s decision to revive the show ‘in all its splendour’. Shown here in the four-act version, Don Carlo is the fascinating tale of father-son power struggles, adultery and love that borders on incest. The cast – under the powerful baton of Gianandrea Noseda – is headed by renowned Mexican tenor Ramón Vargas, and also features Ludovic Tézier, who has been hailed as ‘one of the best Verdian singers of our time’
It truly is an historic performance. Domingo looking and singing like a god pouring out golden tones; Renato Bruson sounds, like the sublime Verdian Baritone that he was at that time; Nicolai Ghiaurov proves again that he was one of the greatest "Verdi Basses"; Mirella Freni shows that there was more to her than just being Mimi and Susannah-in fact I can remember reading that at the time of the premiere of this production that there were fist fights (not unusual in La Scala's gallery) between Mirella's many fans--between those fans that just wanting her to continue singing the light lyric repertoire that they were use to her singing and those that felt she should and could sing the lyric-spinto repertoire which, of course, she proved that,indeed, she could (She's still singing more than twenty years later). This performance captures some of the best Verdi singers of the time doing dear ole wonderful Giuseppi proud.
Ghiaurov, Freni, and Bumbry were great voices in their time, and they are still effective here -- good enough musicians to put over the quite heavy vocal and expressive demands of their roles. Louis Quilico was never quite in that league, and he sounds a bit spread and woofy in places here, but he works hard and effectively to bring Rodrigo to life. Placido Domingo recorded his first Don Carlo, for EMI with Giulini, about 15 years before this production, but he looks and sounds fine here -- in the early 1980's he was doing very good Otellos and Lohengrins too, and Furlanetto, still in his 30's, brings a rich, young voice to an old part and succeeds in making the Grand Inquisitor vocally as well as expressively formidable. Levine brings both weight and energy to the score, and that reading fits well with the overall "traditional" design and production -- the Met's wardrobe budget must have been severely taxed, but everybody looks splendid.
Simon Boccanegra is Verdi's magnificent telling of a humble 14th century Genoan who rises to become Doge of the great city. The plot centers on the political intrigues between Boccanegra (Domingo) and his adversary, the aristocratic Jacopo Fiesco, and the discovery of his long-lost daughter, Amelia. This story though replete with an inevitable tragic conclusion is ultimately one of hope, as the two great men are able to rise above their power-driven animosities to ensure peace amongst their beloved Genoa's warring factions and by placing familial and civic love ahead of their own individual desires.
This production from Covent Garden is set in Stockholm, and not Boston. With Reri Grist (Oscar), Placido Domingo (Gustavus), Katia Ricciarelli (Amelia), Piero Cappucili (Renato), Patricia Payne (? - the booklet or DVD fails to credit the singer) (Ulrica) and Claudio Abbado in the pit: all at their peak, you just simply cannot go wrong when purchasing this DVD. This performance made me realise why I had fallen in love with opera: beautiful (today one should be thankful) and convincing sets and costumes, and fiery conducting and singing from all the above soloists which leaves you breathless. Domingo as the King (not the Governor of Boston) is simply ravishing! He is so convincing and dashing as Gustavus - I think very few tenors nowadays can even attempt such a convincing vocal and dramatic performance.
NABUCCO may be Verdi's first masterpiece, and not just because of that amazing Chorus of Hebrews which is justly beloved by everyone who hears it. Dramatically, this opera is tightly constructed, with believable characters in an intense conflict over values and beliefs. And Verdi's music, however early in his career, however distant from triumphs like LA FORSA DEL DESTINO or AIDA, is highly animated, revealing inner turmoil and outer passions with beauty and economy. The ensembles are especially impressive, building to satisfying heights of emotional release for the singers and the audience. And Placido Domingo is a wonder to behold and hear. Even though his original voice was baritone, which he managed to transform into a tenor voice, he doesn't SOUND like a baritone to me. B-U-T his performance is so committed, so deeply interfused with Verdi's music, so generously integrated to the younger singers around him, that the waters part.
Coming just before the mature final works, Verdi's Simon Boccanegra - along with Un Ballo in Maschera, Les Vêpres Siciliennes, La Forza del Destino and Don Carlos - occupy a strange but fascinating hinterland in the career of the composer. Each of the operas, influenced by Verdi's political involvement in the Risorgimento for the reunification of Italy during the period, are very much concerned with the exercise of power, but they all rely on typically operatic conventions of bel canto and French Grand Opéra in their use of personal tragedies and unlikely twists of fate to highlight the human feelings and weaknesses that lie behind their historical dramas. Written in 1859, but revised by the composer in 1881, Piave's libretto given an uncredited reworking by Arrigo Boito, Simon Boccanegra is consequently one of the more interesting works from this period, certainly from a musical standpoint. Live from Teatro all Scala, Milan 2010.
Stiffelio is considered "early Verdi" to musiclogists who classify things, but, in reality, it is a final transition between the maestro's earlier (but most enjoyable) works, and the mature craftsmanship of Rigoletto. Preceded by Luisa Miller (q.v.), there is more dramatic intensity and story line than in the earlier works. The plot centers around Stiffelio, a minister, who discovers that his wife, Mina, has been unfaithful.
This performance of 2014 can be considered as a reference on account of the quality of the vocal material involved and because the daring staging of Austrian Martin Kušej is rich in meaning within the context of the global challenges of today. He proposes a reflection on war, on vengeance and also on the mark of guilt which ends with the joie de vivre and the expansion of passions. In the intimacy of Calatrava, his is a post-Bauhaus picture of a Fascist neatness which then contrasts with the chaos of battles, the abyss of misery and the sexual stampede after triumph or failure. In this context, religion, instead of being a consolation is both an escape and the tomb of humanity; the chapel wherein Leonora hides is made out of huge crosses and in one of them, just for a moment, Don Álvaro seems crucified by his fate.
Leonora plans to elope with Don Alvaro, but he accidentally shoots and kills her father, who curses them as he dies. The lovers go on the run, but get separated. Bent on revenge, Leonora's brother Don Carlo, hunts them down.
Verdi painted an immense canvas with this dark but tuneful opera, vividly brought to life in John Dexter’s production, with sets by the great Eugene Berman. The legendary Leontyne Price is seen in one of her greatest roles, Leonora. Price’s soaring voice encompasses every nuance of Leonora’s emotion as she moves from joy through resignation to ultimate heartbreak. James Levine’s brilliant leading of the Met orchestra and chorus is a lesson in Verdi style. Giuseppe Giacomini is Alvaro, the man Leonora loves, and Leo Nucci is Don Carlo, the dark instrument of their Fate.