Giuseppe Verdi's "I Vespri Siciliani" epitomizes the elegant style of the Paris Opera. Set in Sicily at the twilight of the French occupation, the opera swirls with intimate ensembles, splendid public scenes, and heroic pu... more »blic choruses. Under the direction of Riccardo Muti, the La Scala orchestra delivers a blazing tour de force in the large ensemble scenes and sensitive intimacy to the quieter moments. An excellent cast features soprano Cheryl Studer as Elena and tenor Chris Merritt as Arrigo. In this extraordinary La Scala production, the rarely seen third-act "Ballet of the Four Seasons" is superbly danced by superstars Carla Fracci and Wayne Eagling.« less
"Vespri is a wonderful, underappreciated opera. It probably has the most ensemble numbers of all of Verdi's operas, even more so than Ballo. It requires great singers but has relatively few "showy" numbers for them, a fact star singers may resent given the length of the work. The soprano gets the haunting "Arrigo...." which is really part of a duet, the well known Bolero, and a melodramatic ballad in the first act; the base gets the eloquent "O tu Palermo." The musical and dramatic quality of tenor and baritone arias are not as high, yet their music is equally demanding. The ensembles are magnificent: all sorts of combinations from a-capella quartets to choruses to full-out unison oh-so-beautiful-italian-melodies. Most of the opera seems written in long melodic lines in minor keys (I have not checked a score.... it sounds that way to me). Yes, there are some passages where the inspiration is not up to the rest, but those do not occur often.I first became acquainted with this opera when the Met did it years ago with Montserrat Caballé, Nicolai Gedda, and Sherrill Milnes, in a somewhat undistinguished Swoboda/Dexter production. Caballé's singing was the "stuff of legends," as subsequent hearings of the broadcast performance continue to attest. And she was followed in the part by the likes of Scotto, Deutekom, et al. The La Scala performance is particularly distinguished by Muti's conducting. I'm not a fan of his conducting in general, but here he excels: energetic, lyrical, propulsive. It is a pleasure to hear Giorgio Zancanaro, a truly robust italian baritone the likes of which we don't seem to hear in America often. His Met appearances were brief. Ferruccio Furlanetto is a good singing base, elsewhere a good Leoporello; Studer and Merritt are fine, but ...... one longs for great voices as Elena and Arrigo, and good as they are, the greatness one has heard totally eludes them. The opera is given complete, even with the ballet (one wishes they would have used the Jerome Robbins choreography.... this one is undistinguished and boring, and so is the dancing). The production is sumptuous. Much love seems to have been placed by all concerned into this project, and in general it shows.The sound is excellent.... uncompressed stereo. Unfortunately, this is probably the worst DVD I have ever seen (the reason for the 3 stars). I do not know the reason for this utter failure. I have not seen this performance on tape or disc. It looks like the performance was underlit for the source television broadcast and therefore the problem may never be resolved. At points I found it hard on the eyes as I tried to focus in utter futility.The question then becomes..... if this is as good as it gets, is there another Vespri in the works? I doubt it. Get it..... close your eyes from time to time..... it certainly is not unwatchable.... the worst moments occur in the luxurious ballroom scene.... close-ups are ok. Why could La Scala not gotten somebody like Brian Large to supervise things? Italian unions? Pity."
Excellent voice, orchestra and also ballet!
S. J McKenna | 03/03/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Probably one of the best examples of grand operas! Cheryl Studer is great. Whoever is playing Monteforte is also wonderful. I really enjoyed "Ballet of the Four Seasons." Hope that more operas are available on DVDs."
I. Martinez-Ybor | 02/15/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I put off watching this DVD for quite sometime. When I did finally view it, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. The singing was wonderful, the recording was good, and the setting was effective. The 'Sicilian Vespers' took place in the 13th century, but the costumes here are updated to the 19th - that is Verdi's own time. The opera is longer than usual for Verdi, but it goes by quickly. About twenty minutes of the 3d act is devoted to a ballet that could stand on its own as a performance piece. I'm astounded that this opera is a 'neglected' work. I deducted a star since the DVD has few extras or choices."
S. J McKenna | San Francisco, CA USA | 01/04/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"NOTE: Be sure to buy the less expensive release now available (I just bought this one at more than twice the other's price...!!!). This is a rich rich melodic feast sung by wonderful voices...particularly the baritone and bass. Contrary to other reviews here,I don't worry about costumes or production details unless they are egregious...and these are fine, perfectly acceptable. I also don't worry about DVD extras -- I buy for the music and the singing and in those qualities this DVD and this opera are first rate. A delicious banquet of opera meat and potatoes, and delightful bons bons to boot."
For Verdi lovers
S. J McKenna | 06/13/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is one of Verdi's most neglected operas, and we are fortunate to have at least this video version since you'll probably never get a chance to see it live. If you love Verdi, this DVD is well worth the price. Cheryl Studer is outstanding as usual."