Review Roundup: What Did The Critics Think Of LUISA MILLER at The Met Opera?
Plácido Domingo adds yet another role to his legendary Met career in this rarely performed Verdi gem, a heart-wrenching tragedy of fatherly love. Sonya Yoncheva sings the title role opposite Piotr Becza?a in the first Met performances of the opera in more than ten years. Bertrand de Billy conducts.
Luisa Miller represents a transitional moment in Giuseppe Verdi's unparalleled career. While reminiscent of the youthful vitality that had made Verdi an international sensation, the opera also looks forward to the dramaturgical discipline and sophistication of the composer's middle period. The story centers on the bond between a father and his daughter as they stand together against a hostile world, and much of the dramatic and psychological acumen that would define the mature Verdi is already fully apparent in this earlier work. It is an opera very much like its title character-one that impresses with genuine virtues rather than superficial flashiness.
In a remarkable career spanning six decades in the theater, Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901) composed 28 operas, at least half of which are at the core of today's repertory. Salvadore Cammarano (1801-1852) was a playwright and one of the foremost librettists of his day. He created several libretti for Donizetti, including Lucia di Lammermoor (1835), as well as La Battaglia di Legnano (1849) and Il Trovatore (1853) for Verdi.
The opera was originally set during the first half of the 17th century in the Tyrolean Alps (now part of Austria), which reflects the Germanic source of the drama. The non-Mediterranean setting is also typical of an interest in Northern Europe that was a hallmark of the Romantics and other artists of the early 19th century. The Met's current production updates the setting to rural England in the era of the work's composition.
As the opera represents a pivotal moment in Verdi's career, so the score itself has aspects of both the rough vitality of his early works and the refinement of his middle career. Passionate melody is on full display throughout the score, nowhere more than in the tenor's ravishing Act II aria "Quando le sere al placido." The rare duet for two basses in Act II reflects the preponderance of lower voices found throughout the score, and it is against these dark sounds that the high tessitura of Luisa's soprano takes on an additional feel of lightness and purity. Her impassioned "Tu puniscimi, O Signore," filled with pianissimo high Cs, is a choice example of her music expressing the luminescence of her character.
Lusia Miller is on stage March 29 through April 21. For tickets and more visit: https://www.metopera.org/Season/2017-18-Season/luisa-miller-verdi-tickets/
Let's see what the critics have to say!
Zachary Woolfe, NY Times: Mr. Domingo brings out a father's concern and pain more than his obsession. He is a straightforward singer, as he always has been, with straightforward feelings. His relationship with Luisa doesn't have much complexity, but it has earnestness and poignancy. His voice sounds healthy; he moves with fluency. If he'll never be a true Verdi baritone, and always an aging tenor in baritone's clothing, it is still a display not to be missed: someone of Mr. Domingo's stage of life taking on a new Verdi role at a great opera house and doing himself no small degree of honor with it. You almost don't believe your eyes or ears.
Santosh Venkataraman, Opera Wire: The only evidence of Yoncheva's high notes showing any strain were in her "Lo vido, e'l primo palpito" in Act one, in which she states that she has met the man of her dreams. The truth is that this aria so close to the start of the performance is written in a way that it is nearly impossible for anyone to pull off.
Barry Bassis, The Epoch Times: The phenomenal Plácido Domingo plays the old soldier Miller. Now 77, the former tenor who used to appear as Rodolfo is now working his way through Verdi's baritone roles. His voice is still powerful and his tone firm, and he continues to command the stage even if he doesn't sound like a true Verdi baritone.
James Jorden, The Observer: These snips shortened the evening by perhaps 10 minutes-or less than half of the time the audience spent sitting in the dark waiting for Santo Loquasto's gigantic earth-toned sets to be noisily wheeled into place. For no good reason I could see, Elijah Moshinsky's production transposed the action from 17th century central Europe to rural England in the Victorian era.
David Wright, NY Classical Review: Like most of the cast (except the reliable Domingo), the orchestra under conductor de Billy performed less than its best in Act I, but the rippling clarinets sounded divine under Rodolfo's great Act II aria, and the flutes and piccolo so essential to the Verdi sound twittered or soothed effectively all evening. The orchestra also gave a good account of the opera's striking overture, almost Schubertian in its shapely theme and smart development.
Richard Sasanow, BroadwayWord: As for Domingo, in the baritone role of Luisa's father (though he's still billed in the program as a tenor), he again proved that it's not time for him to retire. He sang well and, from his own experience as Rodolofo earlier in his career, knows how to wring every emotion out of the opera. In his past as a tenor, he sometimes sounded very baritonal; as a baritone, it's the opposite. In the end: So what? (Unless, of course, you're a baritone competing with him for a role and could probably sing it better.)