Review by: Robert Levine
Artistic Quality: 9
Sound Quality: 7
Luisa Millers are appearing from everywhere lately: first, the re-release of Decca’s fine 1975 studio performance under Peter Maag with Caballé and Pavarotti, and then a 1976 live performance on Opera d’Oro with the same principals. And now this, from 1974, also under Maag, a live RAI performance in terrific sound, and again with Pavarotti. Where the tenor was wonderful in the other two, remarkably he is even better here. The voice is simply gorgeous, his phrasing is intelligent, sensitive, and instinctively musical, his use of legato and portamento are object lessons in the art of bel canto, his breath control is masterful, and his range is absolutely even from ringing top to expressive bottom. It’s enough to make you forget all of his lousy performances from the 1990s onward. Stick to this and the only applicable word is “legendary”.
Gilda Cruz-Romo was an impressive soprano with a lovely, good-sized voice and a solid technique, who somehow in live performances never quite made it to greatness. Either she couldn’t sing softly, or there was an ordinariness in her phrasing that didn’t lift her into the top ranks. Nevertheless, her creativity was ignited at this performance and everything is in place: she is the most satisfying Luisa on disc. Like all the others (except for Anna Moffo, who hasn’t quite the heft for the later moments), she’s not quite girlish enough in her opening scene, but for the remainder of the performance she’s simply luscious. The tone is round and clean and easily produced–up to the high D-flat that ends her third-act duet with Miller–and she’s thoroughly involved, varying her dynamics to all of Verdi’s markings.
Matteo Manuguerra’s Miller also is excellent; his voice may not be of the quality of either Cappuccilli or Milnes, but it’s fine nonetheless and he captures every nuance of this character. He partners Cruz-Romo sympathetically and genuinely makes us care. Arié and Mazzoli sound as if they’ve learned the roles of Walter and Wurm just for this performance, and they’re bores, and Cristina Angelakova’s Federica makes little impression (but at least she’s not disgusting, as is the mezzo on the Opera d’Oro set). The RAI Turin orchestra and chorus are terrific, and Peter Maag clearly is the conductor for this opera. Although his Decca leadership leaves the others in the dust, here he’s even more in tune with Verdi’s changing moods and growing depth. Despite the two mediocre basses, this set is one to be treasured.
Buy Now from Arkiv Music
Recording Details:Reference Recording: Pavarotti/Maag (Decca), this one
GIUSEPPE VERDI - Luisa Miller; Bonus: Pavarotti in Luisa Miller and La bohème, Rome, '67