Bellini: I Puritani

WORKS: I Puritani
PERFORMER: Eduardo Valdes, Franco Vassallo, Anna Netrebko, John Relyea, Eric Cutler, Valerian Ruminski, Maria Zifchak; Metropolitan Opera/Patrick Summers; dir. Sharon Thomas (New York, 2007)
CATALOGUE NO: DG 073 4421 (NTSC system; dts 5.1; 16:9 picture format)
Here’s a Puritani that looks as ‘pretty as a picture’. Superficially, the production takes its cue from Van Dyck, but look closely and it’s really Madame Tussaud’s melodramatic tableau ‘When did you last see your Father?’. And this being a New York show, Ming Cho Lee and Peter J Hall’s costumes and sets are more Plymouth Rock than English Plymouth in the middle of the Civil War. This also being the Metropolitan Opera, and a Puritani that was originally created for Joan Sutherland, acting styles are more about signalling emotions across a great space than exploring character. Anna Netrebko’s Elvira, for example, begs her uncle to be spared from marrying Riccardo and she and John Relyea’s Giorgio stalk across the stage and wave their arms as if battling a tempest. In Bellini it’s better, if you must,to simply ‘stand and deliver’ and let the music and the vocal line take the dramatic strain. Netrebko is the reason for this recording and it’s a sound reason too. True, her diction is only adequate to poor. True too, she seems to have overdosed on Callas when she prepared her Part I finale, but she is meltingly beautiful in her rendition of ‘O rendetemi la speme…Qui la voce’. Would that some of her singers – Franco Vassallo as Riccardo and John Relyea had taken their cue from Netrebko’s finely spun legato. Yet Eric Cutler’s Arturo, having muffed the start of ‘A te, o cara’, almost sounds Bellinian, which is often more than can be said of Patrick Summers in the pit.