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Verdi: Luisa Miller / Guttler, Golovneva, Shtonda, Robert, Fuchs [blu-ray]

Verdi / Golovneva / Malmo Opera Chorus & Orchestra
Release Date: 01/28/2014 
Label:  Arthaus Musik   Catalog #: 108088  
Composer:  Giuseppe Verdi
Performer:  Luc RobertOlesya GolovnevaVladislav SulimskyTaras Shtonda,   ... 
Conductor:  Michael Güttler
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Malmö Opera OrchestraMalmo Opera Chorus
Number of Discs: 1 
In Stock: Usually ships in 24 hours.  
Blu-ray Video:  $39.99
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Also available on standard DVD

VERDI Luisa Miller Michael Güttler, cond; Olesya Golovneva ( Luisa Miller ); Luc Robert ( Rodolfo ); Vladislav Sulimsky Read more ( Miller ); Lars Arvidson ( Wurm ); Taras Shtonda ( Count Walter ); Ivonne Fuchs ( Federica ); Emma Lyrén ( Laura ); Malmö Op Ch & O ARTHAUS 188 088 (Blu-ray: 152:00) Live: Malmö 2012

Luisa Miller has always been overshadowed by the three Verdi operas that followed shortly after its 1849 premiere— Rigoletto, La traviata, and Il trovatore. While the work based on Schiller’s Kabale und Liebe isn’t as commanding a musical achievement as that mighty trilogy, it sure would be nice to encounter it more frequently in the theater. Luisa Miller hasn’t exactly been ignored on disc: ArkivMusic offers 32 versions, ranking 14th among their Verdi opera offerings. This Blu-ray rendering of a 2012 production by Malmö Opera is a worthy addition to the work’s video representation.

The main attraction is the Russian-born Olesya Golovneva, who sings the title role. Golovneva possesses a focused, agile, accurate and youthful-sounding lyric soprano instrument that suits the part of the vulnerable but principled Luisa quite well. The singer can pass for a 20-year old (Golovneva is actually 34) and the scenes with her father, capably portrayed by Vladislav Sulimsky, are touching and believable. To note just one highlight, Luisa’s third act aria “La tomba è un letto sparso di fiori” is delivered with such a cheery tenderness that one is utterly convinced that the girl means it when she concludes that, under the circumstances, she’s better off dead.

As Rodolfo, the Canadian tenor Luc Robert has an attractively colored voice but one that lacks heft and power; he’s no Domingo (who has made four commercial recordings of the part.) The other important roles are aptly cast. Taras Shtonda is a well-fed, jowly Walter, Lars Arvidson’s Wurm is an impressively tall sleazebag and, as Federica, Ivonne Fuchs has a appropriately aristocratic bearing and a more worldly-sounding voice than the innocent Luisa.

The smallish chorus performs well and deploys just the right amount of stage business; balances between stage and pit are ideal. The production is visually captivating, featuring period costumes but a spare and colorful abstract set that includes a giant pair of hands. (In the last act, the hands are crushing Luisa and her father’s little house, just as their life together has been destroyed.) Picture quality and film editing are superb. Subtitle options are Italian, English, German, French, and Korean.

There is one other competing Blu-ray Luisa Miller, included in C Major’s ambitious Tutto Verdi project. ( Luisa is available separately from the $800 list price box set.) That version has a better cast: Leo Nucci sings Miller and Marcelo Álvarez is Rodolfo. Fiorenza Cedolins portrays a very different kind of Luisa, less girlish and naïve. But Golovneva is so good in this new Arthaus Musik release that I’m glad to have both.

FANFARE: Andrew Quint
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Works on This Recording

Luisa Miller by Giuseppe Verdi
Performer:  Luc Robert (Tenor), Olesya Golovneva (Soprano), Vladislav Sulimsky (Baritone),
Taras Shtonda (Bass), Ivonne Fuchs (Alto), Emma Lyrén (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor:  Michael Güttler
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Malmö Opera Orchestra,  Malmo Opera Chorus
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1849; Italy 

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