Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Verdi - I Vespri Siciliani|
Actors: Renzo Zulian, Amarilli Nizza, Vladimir Stoyanov, Lorenzo Muzzi, Tiziana Carraro
Director: Pier Luigi Pizza
Genres: Indie & Art House, Music Video & Concerts, Musicals & Performing Arts
Niel Rishoi | Ann Arbor, MI USA | 03/21/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)
Elena: Amarilli Nizza
Arrigo: Renzo Zulian
Monforte: Vladimir Stoyanov
Procida: Orlin Anastassov
Rest of Cast: Who cares
Conductor: Stefano Renzani
Orchestra, Chorus of Fondazione Arturo Toscanini
Director, set, costumes: Pier Luigi Pizzi
Recorded at Teatro Verdi, Busseto, Feb 2003
Dynamic DVD 33551 160 minutes.
One of the nice things about Dynamic's releases is that the performance often takes place at one of the less-heralded opera houses throughout Italy. Sometimes the results can be a delightful surprise: Dynamic's Nabucco release, which I reported on at length some couple years ago, was one of the best all-around performances of the opera at any time, and it featured some stunning performances. I have several other of Dynamic's releases, and I'm glad to have them.
Seeing these is a virtual ticket to what's happening outside Milan.
According to this new SICILIANI, not much.
The Teatro Verdi is a little jewel box. Small, intimate; it looks wonderful. I don't like the side run-ways that extend out to the audience. The chorus and principals often go strolling out onto them, and it kills the theatrical mood. During Elena's Bolero, she is standing right in front of an enclosed box-seat with a man and wife (or mistress even) situated there. The man sees the camera and his face is registering "Oops! What'll I do? The woman fiddles with her hair. It's a hilarious effect - and very distracting.
Costumes - I'm often no good at figuring out historical styles. It looks like American Civil war garb to me. The men are dressed in blue-coats, with shoulder tassels; and the women are in hoop-styled dresses. The stage itself is quite bare, with a black tarp covering everything. There's a square pit in the middle, surrounded by stairs and such. If it all sounds vague, it is.
The score has some trims, most notably Arrigo's *melodia* near the end. Very disappointing. The ballet is omitted. Stefano Renzani is more accomodating than Muti, but less exciting than Levine, in their respective complete recordings. This is a wonderful score, and it needs a benevolent dictator - precise about the reading, but sympathetic toward the singers. Sigh...I long to hear and see performed, though, the opera in the original French. A very reliable Verdi scholar I know is adamant that the Italian "version" is a crude, inept fit to the way the music was composed for the French text.
How ironic is it that of the 4 singers here, the best ones are not the Italians, but the Slavs? Vladimir Stoyanov has a beautiful baritone, and he phrases with a good deal of musicianship and feeling. Orlin Anastassov, I'm convinced, is the Ghiuarov heir-apparent. Their voices are uncannily similar, in how they approach their phrasing and the color of their vowels. And so it is with Anastassov. Not yet 30, Anastassov looks and sounds young as the character, but he is so authoritative that he trumps all reservations. The top is impressive, though, and he commands an imposing figure. All the Procidas of recent decades have been inadequate. Raimondi in the Levine was out of his league - and that brown, dry tone is unappealing. Furlanetto in the Muti is too light in weight. We missed our chance to have a truly sonorous Procida when Siepi got shafted at the MET - he would likely have been cast in the recording.
The Italians, Renzo Zulian as Arrigo, and Amarilli Nizza as Elena, are both excellent actors. Too bad their singing doesn't match.
Zulian has a voice of some thrust and ping, and he attempts some modulation, but the delivery is often unfinished, rough. Chris Merritt perhaps has a better grasp of the role, technically, but Zulian is a far better communicator.
Nizza, whom I first heard a few years ago in a dreadful Donizetti Tudor Queens final scenes CD, has a very engaging and involved stage manner. I have to emphasize that she surprised me with the force of her emotional performance, and more "authentic" than Studer in the Muti video. The voice sounds fairly sizable, with a serviceable, attractive middle register, but the crucial ends of the role - the lows and the highs - leave gaping holes. She has no chest tones, and what she offers is a breathy-husky sound. Nizza above the staff dwells in her throat; the tone is driven, hard and bleaty. Unexpectedly, the "Arrigo, ah parli ad un core," is shapely, and felt, with some nice shadings, save for the inelegant passagework in the end. The 'Bolero' is a mess; you can't tell where a trill and the juddering tone leave off. Elsewhere, she throttles the tone painfully.
Looks like Callas has defined Elena for good - but Arroyo sounds magnificent too, and positively star-like next to Nizza. How I wish Sutherland had sung the role and recorded it - her Bolero in her first recital is brilliant. And let's not forget Ponselle's amazing account too.