Opera Review: Verdi's Luisa Miller

Israel Opera, The Opera House, January 3.

Don Quixote ballet_311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Don Quixote ballet_311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Verdi’s Luisa Miller, a seldom performed work, was presented by the Israeli Opera as a first performance in the country.
Largely forgotten as it justifiably is, it proved that Verdi’s severest competitor is Verdi himself, since most of his other works put this opera in their formidable shadow. There are, indeed, plenty of intrigues and a tragic love affair, as implied in the title Intrigue and Love of Schiller's play on which the opera is based. But these effective ingredients for making an opera attractive to an audience are here more inextricable than can be easily digestible, and the many corpses strewn all over the stage at the unhappy end are not exactly appetizing.
A well-sharpened red pencil for deleting some of the more confusing and superfluous passages might have rendered a good service to the always self-critical Verdi. Moreover, unlike most other Verdi’s operas, this work contains no hit-song tune one could hum on the way home, such as, say, “La donna e mobile” in Rigoletto, the “Drinking Song” in La Traviata, or “Celeste Aida.”
The performance’s main hero was the Symphony Orchestra Rishon LeZion, conducted by Daniel Oren. A rich, full, well-consolidated, perfectly balanced sound and clearly profiled abundant instrumental tone colors contributed support to the singers without overshadowing their voices, conveyed the plot’s emotional moods, emphasized the dramatic happenings, and created the increasing tension.
Among the singers, the male characters were particularly outstanding. As Wurm, Carlo Striuli’s dark-timbred bassbaritone sounded as evil as this repulsive type is supposed to be. Ionut Pascu’s baritone, as Miller, was warm and friendly.
Walter’s sinister character was personified convincingly by Roberto Scandiuzzi’s dark and assertive bass. Massimiliano Pisapia’s emotionally charged bright tenor represented a credible lover.
In the role of Luisa, Leah Crocetto’s soprano intensely conveyed her innocent and gentle personality, but became strained and shrill on the higher notes when expressing profound emotions.
Goetz Friedrich’s direction seemed unable to make up its mind whether to appear minimalist or realistic. Background curtains frequently went up and down without any apparent reason.
A wheelchair as a simplistic attempt at demonstrating modernity in an otherwise conventional environment was ridiculous instead of compassion- evoking.