Fathom Events' Met Opera "Luisa Miller": As the Wurm Turns

Yoncheva & Beczala in "Luisa Miller"
(photo: Metropolitan Opera)

Luisa Miller, recently presented by the Metropolitan Opera in a Live in HD broadcast, is one of
Composer Giuseppe Verdi's lesser known works from what is regarded as the beginning of his “middle period”. With a Libretto by Salvatore Cammarano in three acts, based on a play by Schiller, it is recognized as a bourgeois tragedy and a precursor to such works as La Traviata.

The story takes place in 1850's England. Luisa Miller (soprano Sonya Yoncheva) is in love with Carlo, who is really Rodolfo (tenor Piotr Beczala), the son of Count Walter (bass Alexander Vinogradov). Her father (Placido Domingo, still identified by the Met as a tenor, even in this role) suspects Carlo's true intentions, and those fears are confirmed when Walter's retainer Wurm (bass Dimitry Belosselskiy) reveals Rodolfo's true identity. Walter prefers that his son marry the Duchess Federica (mezzo-soprano Olesya Petrova). Miller tries to convince his daughter of Rodolfo's deceit, but Rodolfo claims he is sincere. After Walter insults Luisa and Henry defends her, the count orders them both imprisoned, but Rodolfo arranges their freedom by threatening to reveal information about his father that would be incriminating (namely, how he became count via a convenient murder). After Miller is jailed, Wurm tells Luisa that she can save her father by writing a letter pledging herself to him. Meanwhile Wurm and Walter plot to send her letter to Rodolfo. When they threaten her father, she professes her love for Wurm to Federica. Walter persuades Rodolfo, in despair about the letter, that he could avenge her treachery by marrying Federica. Rodolfo confronts Luisa with the letter, then asks her to pour him a drink. Not realizing that he has put poison in the cup, she drinks from it, as does he. Before she dies, she reveals the truth to him. As he is dying, Rodolfo kills Wurm.

Belosselskiy & Domingo in "Luisa Miller"
(photo: Metropolitan Opera)
No one could argue that Verdi and Cammarano don't know how to boil a pot or burn a barn, as this work definitely demonstrates. There's also a lot of elaborate scenery that slows things down at several changes of scenes. But the singing overcomes any qualms one might have, even in the smaller role of village girl Laura (mezzo-soprano Rihab Chaieb). Yoncheva was especially endearing in her Act Two aria, Tu puniscimi, o signore, as was Beczala in the same act in his aria Quando le sere al placido. The a capella quartet was an amazing display of musicianship. The standing ovation at the close of the performance was much deserved, especially in light of the incredible (and continuing) career of Domingo, now taking on baritone roles, and conducting, with aplomb.

This performance was Conducted by Bertrand De Billy, in a Production by Elijah Moshinsky with Set and Costume Design by Santo Loquasto, Lighting Design by Duane Schuler, with Stage Direction by Gregory Keller. The Chorus Master was Donald Palumbo. The HD Live Director was Matthew Diamond and the HD Live Host was a replacement, Anthony Roth Costanzo, a countertenor (and winner of the prestigious 2012 Operalia in Beijing) whose poise and enthusiasm made for a welcoming presence. This surely stands out as perhaps the finest production of the Met's current season.

"Luisa Miller" will have an Encore presentation Weds. April 18th at a theater near you

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