Monday, December 1, 2008

Day 2: Luisa Miller, a shipwreck in 3 Acts (updated)

Two fathers – a tragedy! Count Walter’s son Rodolfo loves Miller’s daughter Luisa, but the fathers oppose to this union for reasons of state and egotism. Helping the count sabotage this young bliss is an intriguer with the prophetic name of Wurm. The result of his “work”: the double suicide of Rodolfo and Luisa by poison.

That actors that were playing Miller/Rodolfo/Luisa etc.

Verdi has composed for Luisa Miller the most wonderful music! The pages of father Miller and Luisa are glorious, Luisa’s aria “Tu puniscimi” belongs to my operatic pantheon of arias, so does Rodolfo's "Quando le sere...", the ensembles are breathtaking, Wurm is kind of a Mefisto character etc. etc.

So, what could go wrong?

The first thing that stroke me was Zeljko Lucic’s voice. I was looking forward to listening to him live and I was listening to his Macbeth(s) from the Met over and over again. But what I heard was a tired, worn out voice, the voice of a very old man (and no, it wasn’t on purpose). I was wondering if that was actually Lucic on stage singing Miller. I can only hope that he was recovering from a cold or that he just had a bad night.

Zeljko Lucic, Sacra la scelta, Munich 27 Nov, 2008

On the other hand, I didn’t have great expectations regarding our Luisa Miller, Serena Farnocchia, who I had already heard as Luisa Miller from Toronto 2007 and I cannot say I was amazed. But I will have to admit that she took me by surprise. Even if she didn’t have the vocal resources needed for a part as difficult as Luisa, she gave herself body and soul to the battle and she (kinda) won it. I must say that I was feeling pity for what I was actually watching: a singer giving her best on stage, and at the same time trying to achieve/remember all the STUPIDITIES that the stage director had thought for his so ambitious regie (that I wouldn’t pay a CENT to watch again).

Serena Farnocchia, Tu puniscimi, Munich, 27 Nov, 2008

Carlo Colombara (Walter) is a very special case. I don’t think I could count the times I ‘ve seen him live, and if you just make a quick search you ‘ll find out that this man is singing… everywhere. No wonder why the voice sounds like that…and time has definitely left it’s marks on it.

Elena Maximova (not the supermodel) as Federica displays a wonderful material (both vocally and physically I would say) but the projection and the diction is very…russian and she would have to work on that. Otherwise, she’s a very promising singer.

Steven Humes, as Wurm showed everyone how even without singing the lead, one can actually steal the show. Rich, round, thunderous, with resonant, silver low notes, but also undergraded by the shenanigans of the stage director…

Stefano Secco totally saved the show. A lyric voice that was never among my favourites, with a ringing top, excellent diction, wonderful phrasing, a very good rendition of “Quando le sere al placido”, he deserved the triumphal ovation he received at the curtain calls even if at the last duet with Luisa (just before Luisa’s death), his high notes at “Ah! Maledetto, il dì che nacqui, il mio sangue, il padre mio!

Fui creato, avverso Iddio, nel tremendo tuo furor” were a bit more than ringing…

No need to say anything about The Bavarian State Orchestra and Massimo Zanetti who did an excellent job and did justice to this Verdian masterpiece (that I think is very neglected even if it contains some of the most beautiful music Verdi has ever composed).

"What I find so astonishing about Luisa Miller is the absolutely symmetrical structure. There is a quartet, two fathers and two children. The plot has almost cinematic cuts, first we look at what one family is doing in the living room, then the other one, until at some point the two worlds coincide.
At first glance, the fathers seem to be a maximum contrast, on the one hand a totally loving father, on the other a despotic one. But what we want, and what we ultimately get are always two different things. Actually both fathers are constantly justifying their acts by claiming their love for their children. Miller wants to protect his daughter from her naïveté and the dangers of everyday life, and Walter even claims – of course, we do have to make sure we really believe him – that he only committed the murder to retain power for his son. This leads to Miller almost suffocating his daughter with love, while Walter pushes his son into the idle motion of constant protest. Both fathers postulate that they only want the best for their children, but we can’t help asking ourselves to what degree their motives might be egotistical. Miller always talks about himself – when, in the third act, he hears that Luisa is contemplating suicide, his argument is that he doesn’t want to be left alone in his old age. In Walter’s case, on the other hand, we note that he’s really only interested in the retention of power per se, he doesn’t even ask his son if that prospect even interests him. In the face of these differently overpowering fathers, Luisa and Rodolfo haven’t got a chance to develop their own life pattern".

This is what our regisseur, Claus Guth was saying regarding his regie just before the opening of his new production of Luisa Miller. The absolutely symmetrical structure, the quartet, the cinematic cuts, the contrast between the 2 families, ok, whateva.

What we got was a never ending game of mirrors, that turned out to be highly annoying. A round spinning platform, cut in 4 equal parts-rooms with 2 axes, that represent the dining room of the Millers, or the living room of the Walters (do the Walters buy IKEA?). And occasionally the rooms are multiplicated and in the mirrors/rooms appears some actor dressed as Luisa/Miller/Rodolfo/Walter/Wurm/Alice in Wonderland/Nathan Gunn nude (not really, but I really needed a boost of my visits) etc etc. And on top of that, everybody should of course do the same movements (it's a mirror you moron!), and pay attention to stuff like that will singing acute and trills. You got the idea. Totally distracting and annoying. For both the spectators and the singers (and the main reason my friends left me alone during the second part and went for sushi).

Watch HERE a video of the production.

ps. No matter how hard a talented-or-not regisseur tries to deconstruct Verdi (and where Verdi just put any composer's name) in order to make his genious/imbecility shine, the composer will always be the final winner, the reason we go&watch one more Traviata, Lucia, Tristan, etc. etc. not the singers, and definitely not the stage director. And just get over it.


Hariclea said...

yep Regie is sometimes so good that you wish you were listening with your eyes closed!! I am hoping to see Lohengrin later myself, God be with me ! ;-)

But true about Luisa, really wish we would hear it more often!!

maria teresa said...

Very good chronicle, Parsi. A pity at once again has had support the "wonderful" ideas that some stage director give us, but I laughed a lot when I read it.

Willym said...

There is a circle of hell just for Regie types - and so far this year I have at least 5 candiates in mind.

Ντέμης said...

Excellent review Parsi, I don't need to tell you how much I agree with everything you wrote about the scenography.
Luisa has a beautiful voice from what I just heard but hardly Verdian! Who convinces threse gifted singers to try tessituras not writen for their voices, I wonder? Would Maria Reining, Rosana Carteri, E. Schwarzkopf, Régine Crespin, ever fall in this trap?