Luisi shows a real understanding of Verdi's early style and proves that this underrated work has a curious but distinct and intriguing character of its own.
There are two interconnected and thought-provoking revelations here. With the possible exception of Un giorno di regno no Verdi opera has been more disparaged than Alzira; even its composer thought it beyond saving. It's generally agreed that the plot is the problem: a play by Voltaire with every feature of interest ruthlessly filleted out, and equipped by Verdi - writing in feverish haste, interrupted by illness - with music that moves bewilderingly fast. So why does it here seem so intriguing, so flawed yet so rich?
On the face of it this newRead more recording looks under-cast. Vargas, as the cruelly treated Inca chieftain Zamoro, is a lyric tenor in a role taibred to a singer famed for his forceful declamation; Gavanelbi as the much more interesting Gusmano, the cruel villain who achieves true nobility in death, has a baritone that becomes tremulously unsteady under pressure. Aware of these things before listening, and noting also that the recording was made in a mere four days, I was pessimistic. I reckoned without Fabio Luisi, who treats both singers with the greatest understanding. Neither is obliged, even momentarily, to force, and the consequence is that Vargas can sing with real eloquence, growing in the process to fit his role, while Gavanelli and Luisi find many hints of Gusmano's change of heart in his earlier music, hints that are perfectly justified by both text and score. The result is that his dying blessing to the lovers whose happiness he had thwarted is genuinely moving, and in the duet in which he demands Alzira's hand as the price of her lover's life there is a distinct impression of him forcing himself against his will to be brutal. Alzira herself is less involving, and Mescheriakova gives her vocal glamour but not much more, though even here Luisi's watchful care (of the sometimes striking details of Verdi's orchestration as well as the needs of his singers) allows her to float lyrical phrases as well as glitter in defiant coloratura.
Despite some ordinary singing in the minor roles Verdi's score is presented in the best light: not just the raw, 'early Verdi' energy of its robust melodies but the imaginative string tremolandos that introduce Alzira, waking from a troubled dream of the lover she believes dead, the strong and strikingly structured Act 1 finale, the fine Aizira/Gusmano duet in Act 2, the impressively dark introduction to that Act's second scene and the two big numbers (in the Prologue and Act 2) for Zamoro. Luisi shows a real understanding of Verdi's early style and proves that Alzira has a curious but distinct character of its own. The older Orfeo recording is fine, too, with Ileana Cotrubas a more touching Aizira than Mescheriakova. José Carreras, though, is more taxed and less convincing as Zamoro than Vargas, and although Renato Bruson has far more power and splendour than Gavanelli I cannot say that he sings the final scene more affectingly. Chorus and orchestra are both excellent; the balance of the recording is outstanding.
Alzira / Act 1: Riposa. Tutte, in suo dolor vegilante
Alzira / Act 1: Da Gusman
Alzira / Act 1: Figlia!
Alzira / Act 2: E dolce
Alzira / Act 2: Altre virtudi
Alzira / Act 1: Che fia?
Alzira / Act 1: Qual ardimento!
Alzira / Act 1: Teco sperai combattere
Alzira / Act 1: Qual suon?
Alzira / Act 1: Trema, trema
Alzira / Act 2: Mesci, mesci
Alzira / Act 2: Guerrieri, al nuovo dì
Alzira / Act 2: Il pianto
Alzira / Act 2: Ei mora?
Alzira / Act 2: Colma di gioia ho l'anima!
Alzira / Act 2: Amici!... Seconda ebbi fortuna
Alzira / Act 2: Irne lungi ancor
Alzira / Act 2: Tergi del pianto America
Alzira / Act 2: Prodi figli d'Iberia
Average Customer Review: ( 1 Customer Review )
Correction to the Gramophone ReviewOctober 2, 2013By Jeffrey N G. (Jacksonville, FL)See All My Reviews"The Gramophone review reprinted here, making comparisons with the Orfeo recording of the same opera, incorrectly identifies Jose Carreras as the tenor on the Orfeo recording. The tenor in question is actually Francisco Araiza. (Disregard the 5-star rating here. I have no basis on which to rate the Philips recording, as I have not heard it.)"Report Abuse