Fine Middle Verdi Luisa from Parma

Review by: Robert Levine

Artistic Quality: 8

Sound Quality: 9

Here is another fine entry in the “Tutto Verdi” series from C Major Entertainment and Unitel, this time a performance of Luisa Miller from Parma, recorded in October, 2007. Denis Krief directs; he also designed the sets, costumes, and lighting. Updating the action to some vaguely modern time, that is, the early 20th century, has done the opera no harm. Nor have the abstract, minimal sets—a silver geometrical form, slanted walls, video projections as backdrops depicting lush greenery; indeed, they set the scenes well. Dress is conventional, with somewhat more formality for the Count, Wurm, and Federica, who wears a red gown—the only such brilliance in an otherwise “plain” setting. The cast interacts with each other as real people do; the chorus is not a stand-still-and-sing crowd.

The singing is excellent as well. Leo Nucci’s baritone, at 65, is still magnificent. He presents Miller as a desperate man—a loving father, a tragic figure, proud but somewhat helpless. The only problem with Nucci is close-ups: he contorts his face in an unfortunate manner to get to high notes, all of which gleam as they did 20 years ago—and it is genuinely disconcerting. Close-ups do Fiorenza Cedolins few favors either; she looks far too old for Luisa. But her singing, after a bit of hard work in her opening aria, is elegant, exciting, and touching. Always a fine actress, she turns in a heart-rending performance.

Marcelo Alvarez is in his absolute best voice as Rodolfo, in a role wholly suited to him; high notes ring true and easy, his legato is impressive. And Krief has directed him with great flair as well; his intensity is believable. Giorgio Surian’s Walter is arrogant and guilty but the voice is showing some wear; the Wurm of Rafal Siwek is nasty and big-toned; Francesca Franci does what can be done with Federica.

Donato Renzetti leads like a true Verdian, with sweep, intensity, and a pulse that keeps this unique “middle” work moving and thrilling, and the Parmeggiani play and sing magnificently. If you can’t find—or are somehow not interested in—the 1979 performance of this opera from the Met with Scotto, Domingo (in a ridiculous blond wig), and Milnes under James Levine (on DG), then this set will satisfy your love for Luisa.



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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Scotto/Domingo/Milnes (DG); This one


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