VERDI’S RARELY PERFORMED MASTERPIECE
ONCE AGAIN TAKES ITS PLACE ON THE MET STAGE
Luisa Miller is an early Verdi opera, that has long lost its spot in line as his later works take the top places of the most performed operas.
But even while not so well known, Luisa Miller most recently got talked about a lot in the weeks before its performance on the Met’s Live in HD
Mostly, people remarked, “I have never seen it or even heard of it before.”
The opening scene is dark, with the chorus of villagers blending into the scenery. The one bright spot is Luisa who emerges in a bright red dress. This is the incredible Sonya Yoncheva who gets to sing not only with tenor Piotr Beczala as her lover Rodolfo, Placido Domingo as her father Miller, but also with her rival to be as the wife of Rudolfo, Countess Federica, sung by Russian mezzo-soprano Olesya Petrova.
For this, her voice is a gymnastic feat of Olympian proportions. Not only does the story progress in time, but the characters grow and change with events over the course of the opera, calling for their voice to meet the moment. Yoncheva gets to be in many operas in one with the range of voices that Verdi asks of his star sopranos.
Piotr Beczała as Rudolfo, her lover, renders most beautifully the opera’s most famous aria, “Quando le sere al placido/When the nights to the placid.”
Domingo sang Rudolfo over 40 years ago, but now the legendary Placido Domingo has undertaken yet another role —his 149th—to sing Luisa’s father.
A duet of two basses is rare enough, but Luisa Miller can boast such a moment. Alexander Vinogradov as Rodolfo’s father Walter and Dmitry Belosselskiy, as Wurm (his partner in crime and would be husband to Luisa) are well matched in voice as well as conspiracy as they sing the bass duet in Act II ( L'alto retaggio non ho bramato / "The noble inheritance of my cousin").
The opera is a rare treasure not only for such beautiful moments but for what it tells about Verdi’s passage from the bel canto tradition of his predecessors to what would be the high dramatics of his later operas like Otello.
For those who heard the Live in HD, they will have lots to talk about this production for awhile.