Verdi: I Vespri Siciliani

Our rating 
2.0 out of 5 star rating 2.0

COMPOSERS: Verdi
LABELS: Warner/NVC Arts
ALBUM TITLE: I Vespri Siciliani
WORKS: I Vespri Siciliani
PERFORMER: Susan Dunn, Leo Nucci, Veriano Luchetti, Bonaldo Giaiotti; Chorus and Orchestra, Teatro Comunale di Bologna/Riccardo Chailly; dir. Luca Ronconi
CATALOGUE NO: 504678029-2
This 1986 production from Bologna shows good orchestral standards under conductor Riccardo Chailly, whose performance combines dramatic power with lyricism. From a vocal point of view all of the principals command their roles. In fact, heard as a purely sonic experience, it’s a good deal more than respectable even if the sound has little range.

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Visually and dramatically things are much less successful. Luca Ronconi’s lavish production is perhaps intended as a recreation of what 19th-century audiences would have expected to see. (Verdi’s French opera of 1855 is given, incidentally, in the standard Italian translation.) The reasoning might be that it is a period piece, and modern audiences can connect to it only in such a historic setting. That’s not how it registers in productions that seek to take it seriously – as Verdi certainly did – as a musical drama.

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Here the scenery is entirely artificial, large curtains depicting scenes from the opera sweep intermittently across the stage, the chorus stands there as if performing an oratorio, and the principals never go much further than pointless arm gestures on significant phrases. They rarely connect and indeed barely glance at one another, no matter how intense their supposed degree of interaction is. The final massacre looks ridiculous. All in all this is a DVD to listen to rather than to watch. George Hall