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Verdi: Luisa Miller / Renzetti, Surian, Franci, Alvarez, Cedolins [blu-ray]

Release Date: 02/26/2013 
Label:  C Major   Catalog #: 722904  
Composer:  Giuseppe Verdi
Performer:  Marcelo AlvarezGiorgio SurianRafal SiwekFrancesca Franci,   ... 
Conductor:  Donato Renzetti
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Parma Teatro Regio OrchestraParma Teatro Regio Chorus
Number of Discs: 1 
Length: 2 Hours 37 Mins. 

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Giuseppe Verdi LUISA MILLER

Il conte di Walter – Giorgio Surian
Rodolfo – Marcelo Álvarez
Federica – Francesca Franci
Wurm – Rafal Siwek
Miller – Leo Nucci
Luisa – Fiorenza Cedolins
Laura – Katarina Nikolic
Un contadino – Angelo Villari

Parma Teatro Regio Chorus and Orchestra
(chorus master: Martino Faggiani)
Donato Renzetti, conductor

Denis Krief, stage director, set, costume and lighting
Read more designer

Recorded live at the Teatro Regio di Parma, 20 and 22 October 2007

- Introduction to Luisa Miller

Picture format: 1080i High Definition
Sound format: PCM 2.0 / DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Region code: 0 (worldwide)
Subtitles: Italian, English, German, French, Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Japanese
Running time: 147 mins (opera) + 10 mins (bonus)
No. of Discs: 1 (Blu-ray)

R E V I E W S:

Parma has given an important twist to its Verdi Festival, which took place in the spring until recently. Previously, the festival consisted almost solely of offering one Verdi opera each year, and some years two. This year Parma has transferred the festival to October (the composer's birth month) and has prepared a full programme of events from the 1st to the 28 of the month, as many days as the number of operas composed by Busseto’s Maestro. The programme includes three operas in Parma, Busseto and Modena, Verdian symphonic concerts, the Requiem with Muti, a concert by Leo Nucci, reduced presentations of other Verdi works by young soloists from the Teatro Reggio and interesting lectures by prestigious Verdi specialists. The city is full of festival advertisements, with posters of the artists and publicity in shop windows, including costumes from past Verdi productions. There's a wholehearted and authentic Verdi atmosphere, including special shops with Verdi’s favourite dishes.

Many opera lovers consider that great Verdi begins with Rigoletto and that the earlier works lack the same musical quality. I am not the only one who disagrees with this idea, as for me the great Verdi period begins with Luisa Miller, which can be a real masterpiece, when presented properly. Fortunately, the fact is that Parma has taken care of every detail in this new production and has offered a Miller of the highest quality, having done everything possible to guarantee a great success. As far as cast, conductor and production go, the bar has been raised to the highest level.

The new production is in collaboration with Turin and Modena and is directed by Denis Krief, who also designed the sets, costumes and lighting. But if anything stands out in this production it is his magnificent direction of singers. Krief turned them all into true actor-singers, including the chorus who lived every moment of the opera rather than standing like statues, as happens so often. Krief updates the plot's action, bringing it apparently to the end of XIX century, although there are also personal touches, like some female chorus members wearing trousers. The stage reflects the idea of the two opposing worlds separated and yet confronted in the opera: the nobles and citizens. In the scenes with the Count Walter family, sets and costumes are invariably in black and white, with the sets in the form of geometric figures: by contrast Miller’s house offers attractive costumes in brown and gray tones with simple sets, showing gorgeous video projections of trees, which change colour according to what happens in the action. There is a third world too, the Duchess's, which is kitted out in red - or in the case of the outstanding presentation of her reception where the chorus is dressed in all white formal dress. It's extremely attractive and adds up to a thoroughly modern production with splendid stage direction.

How this music shines, when there is great conductor leading the performance! Donato Renzetti gave an object lesson in how to conduct Verdi. His powerful, impassioned, ample tempi – with due attention to technical issues like the singers' breathing – allowed the Teatro Reggio orchestra to give its best, not to mention the chorus which was also splendid.

To round the production off, a cast of exceptional quality and character has also been assembled. Fiorenza Cedolins was a remarkable Luisa, for whom it's hard tp know whether to emphasize her vocal performance characterization. If she was was a great Luisa Miller in Madrid, she surpassed herself in Parma and is imquestionably today's Luisa par excellence. Her debut in Poliuto’s Paolina next February in Bilbao will be something not to be missed.

Marcelo Alvarez was an intense and excellent Rodolfo. For me this tenor has the most beautiful voice I have heard in the last few years only comparable in beauty to the lamented Pavarotti. He sang everything with commitment, expressiveness and brilliance and was especially outstanding in his interpretation of the famous aria “Quando le sere al placido” and the concluding cabaletta. The voice has widened these days and he is no longer the light-lyric tenor of years ago, but a full lyric tenor moving rapidly towards spinto. His middle range maintains an incomparable beauty, although the top notes have lost some of their former brightness. Anyhow, an exceptional Rodolfo.

What can I say about Leo Nucci? Like Paganini, this artist seems to have a pact with Satan. It is incredible that at the age of 65 he can keep his vocal freshness and his intact facility in the upper register. In addition to which he is still a consummate actor. He was the perfect Miller in every sense: within the present panorama of verdian baritones, Nucci is unique and no-one matches at his level.

As Count Walter Giorgio Surjan was an honest performer although his voice can show unequivocal signs of fatigue and there is the beginning of an alarming vibrato in the higher notes. Rafal Siwek however was an outstanding Wurm. The voice does not have a particularly attractive colour, but he showed enough volume for the role and in addition was a fine interpreter. While Francesca Franci was a correct Federica, the mezzo-soprano Katarina Nikolic shone in the small part of Laura.

There were ovations and cheers during the performance from the sold out theater. with repeated requests of encores from the three exceptional principals. This was a huge success for them and also Maestro Renzetti with tumuluous bravos and a rain of confetti from the loggione. You really learn how great Verdi is when he is this well served!

-- José M. Irurzun, MusicWeb International
Reviewing this live performance


Some commentators say Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Luisa Miller represents a transition in his work from the use of traditional musical forms seen early in his career to the more innovative style of his great middle period works beginning with Rigoletto and continuing with Il Trovatore and La traviata . That very well may be true, but another trend I can attest to is that with this opera Verdi’s music is getting noticeably better. Perhaps it is not consistently better throughout the opera, but certainly notable in the ensemble pieces, the finales of acts I and II and the extended duet which ends the last act. The arias for both tenor and soprano are also well conceived, if not as catchy as “Caro nome” or “La donna è mobile.” Verdi’s Luisa overture is one of the best from his pen until La traviata comes along. All of this fine music unfortunately is a bit wasted on another of Frederich Schiller’s rather dreary romantic tragedies, but the opera has proved popular enough to remain in the repertoire of houses both big and small, particularly on the continent of Europe,

The story is of the love between peasant Luisa and Rodolfo, son of the local count (although Luisa doesn’t know that at first). Their match is opposed by both fathers, who know it means trouble, and by the Count’s principal retainer, Wurm, who wants the girl for himself. Miller père challenges the Count after he insults Luisa, and Miller is thrown in jail. Wurm tells Luisa that in order to free her father she must write a letter denying her love of Rodolfo and saying she is in love with Wurm himself. She does so under duress and the father is freed, but Rodolfo takes the letter seriously amiss. He shows up at the Miller house to confront Luisa, who is honor bound not to explain her actions. Rodolfo, in despair, gives them both poison, so they can expire slowly together while singing a love duet. Rodolfo still has enough strength left to get the Wurm before he dies himself. Oh, and there’s a stray Countess around somewhere that Rodolfo is supposed to marry who gets to sing in a set piece or two.

The Parma production seen here from 2007 is a pretty good one. It is one of the sets in the Tutto Verdi project, and one of the better I have seen in that series. Tutto Verdi aims to record all of Verdi’s operas and his Requiem on high definition Blu-ray disc for release this year to honor the composer’s 200th birthday. Stage Director Denis Krief has done a clever job of providing stylized yet evocative sets of time and place which can be changed quite quickly and easily, sometimes in full view of the audience. The Millers’ humble village domicile, with wooden walls contrasts with a backdrop of geometric shapes meant to represent the Count’s much grander quarters. Video projections of swaying trees mark one or two of the outdoor scenes. Krief also uses the costumes to emphasize the difference between peasants and aristocrats so crucial to the story line. All the denizens of the Count’s estates seem to be wearing plush finery while the peasants are dressed as . . . well, peasants. Stage action is blocked quite naturally and the video direction provides a good account of it. Although a bit stylized, the whole production has a traditional feel which I enjoy.

Unlike some other Verdi operas, this one requires six solid principal singers to be performed really successfully. Here we get five, which is above average for the Tutto Verdi series, at least in the early operas. Only the bass of Giorgio Surian as the Count really disappoints. His heavy vibrato has developed a beat which he doesn’t control, and it disfigures any attempts at lyrical singing, even noticeable in the ensembles. It is refreshing to hear a really first class tenor like Marcelo Alvarez singing here. I have always liked Argentinean Alverez’s voice, he adds a touch of vocal class to any role, and here his dramatic involvement nearly matches his fine singing. Almost the same can be said of Fiorenza Cedolins in the lead soprano role of Luisa. Her voice is just a bit heavy for the lyric agility Verdi asks for in Luisa, but Cedolins still outsings a bevy of other sopranos cast in these early Tutto Verdi productions and her high range is very enjoyable. She can also act, and if she and Alvarez are a bit more than callow youths, they still provide a properly satisfying couple in their duets together. Then we come to 65-year-old Leo Nucci, who has been a staple in several of these C Major sets. Nucci performs quite well here as Miller, and for once he is not asked to sing more than his aging stamina allows. Mezzo Francesca Franci sings the Countess and bass-baritone Rafal Siwek the role of Wurm to round out the principal singers. Both perform well, although Siwek’s vocal tone sounds too similar to the other lower voices in some of the duets and ensembles. Donato Renzetti leads the Parma orchestra members in one of their better outings, and we video viewers actually get to watch them playing during the Overture for a change.

There are several sets of Luisa Miller available on DVD; I have only seen the one from Venice, recorded in 2006. That set features another strong soprano performance by Darina Takova; she rivals Cedolins on this set but only the Count of Alexander Vinogradov tops the group of male leads seen and heard here. The Venice production is also quite traditional, but I like the Parma sets and costumes better. In an earlier review Fanfare colleague Bob Rose recommends the 1979 Met production with Scotto, Domingo, Milnes, and Morris, which I have not seen, but despite the strong cast, that video technology is nearly 35 years old, and this C Major set is in breathtaking Blu-ray video and high definition sound. It is better than satisfactory, it is quite good, and I recommend it.

FANFARE: Bill White    
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Works on This Recording

Luisa Miller by Giuseppe Verdi
Performer:  Marcelo Alvarez (Tenor), Giorgio Surian (Bass), Rafal Siwek (Bass),
Francesca Franci (Mezzo Soprano), Leo Nucci (Baritone), Fiorenza Cedolins (Soprano),
Katarina Nikolic (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor:  Donato Renzetti
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Parma Teatro Regio Orchestra,  Parma Teatro Regio Chorus
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1849; Italy 

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