ALBUM TITLE: Verdi
PERFORMER: Ivan Momirov, Veronica Villarroel, Federica Bragaglia, Alain Fondary; Genoa Teatro Carlo Felice Chorus & Orchestra/ Michel Plasson; dir. Piergiorgio Gay, Ermanno Olmi (Genoa, 2000)
CATALOGUE NO: DV-OPJER
Verdi composed his fourth opera, I Lombardi alla prima crociata, for Milan in 1843. It was a huge success, and four years later he produced a radical revision of it, in French, for the Paris Opéra. For this most lavish of theatres he turned the piece into a grand opéra à la Meyerbeer, with ballet, a big new ensemble scene – the works. His French librettists also simplified the plot and changed the Milanese crusaders into a group from Toulouse. But the Italians preferred the original, and only now is Jérusalem being rediscovered.
In fact it’s not merely an expanded version of I Lombardi, but a generally superior one, despite the fact that it repeats the earlier work’s tendency to sprawl. In this production from Genoa by two Italian film directors, it looks magnificent in a stagy, old-fashioned way, with sumptuous costumes and grand traditional sets. But there’s not a lot of detail – this is essentially stand-and-deliver opera, relying heavily on the vocal qualities of the principals.
They’re a mixed bunch, with Veronica Villarroel often insubstantial and occasionally insecure as Hélène, and Ivan Momirov appealing if edgy as her lover Gaston. The older generation does better, with Carlo Colombara vigorous and committed as the near-brother-killer-turned-hermit Roger, and Alain Fondary a noble Count of Toulouse. Conductor Michel Plasson has good stylistic instincts and drives the piece forward. There’s a decent booklet note and synopsis, but no other extras. George Hall