ALBUM TITLE: Verdi
WORKS: I due Foscari
PERFORMER: Leo Nucci, Vincenzo La Scola, Alexandrina Pendatchanska; Naples San Carlo Theatre Chorus & Orchestra/ Nello Santi; dir. Werner Düggelin (Naples, 2000)
CATALOGUE NO: DV-OPIDF
A vertiginous view of Venice on the front curtain throws you off balance as Nello Santi launches into the elegantly concise overture to this opera from Verdi’s ‘galley years’. And it takes you a while to regain your bearings in the lofty Baroque hall where the stage director Werner Düggelin sets the action, but once equilibrium is restored there’s much to enjoy.
And much to admire, too, including solid singing from a strong cast. Vincenzo La Scola is a properly heroic tenor as Jacopo Foscari, about to be banished once again from Venice for a murder he didn’t commit. The acting may be more ham than Hamlet, but his joy at being back home in his Act I cavatina is most affecting. As his wife Lucrezia, Alexandrina Pendatchanska has the kind of sharp-edged voice that could uncork a bottle of wine at a hundred paces. But on stage she’s outraged womanhood personified.
However, the highest honours for acting and singing belong to the veteran baritone Leo Nucci as father Foscari, the Doge who’s compelled to go along with the sentence of exile passed on his son. Nothing becomes the character and the artist more than when he demands an explanation from the Republic’s real rulers, the ruthless Council of Ten. ‘Questa dunque è l’iniqua mercede’ from the finale to Act III is a reminder of what musical treasures there are in this early Verdi score.
Less to be treasured at the Teatro di San Carlo are George Blume’s television cameras which seem to have fallen in love with the zoom lens. It’s an ugly affair that usually ends badly. And a final nag: why are there no biographies of the singers in the accompanying booklet? Christopher Cook