ALBUM TITLE: Verdi
WORKS: Un ballo in maschera
PERFORMER: Massimiliano Pisapia, Franco Vassallo, Chiara Taigi, Anna Maria Chiuri, Eun Yee You; Leipzig Ballet; Opera Leipzig Chorus; Gewandhaus Orchestra, Leipzig/Riccardo Chailly; dir. Ermanno Olmi
CATALOGUE NO: 2055108
In order to get it performed in censor-ridden Italy in 1859, the location of Verdi’s opera was transferred from a semi-historical late-18th-century Sweden to an unlikely Boston at the end of the 17th. Many recent productions have returned it to Sweden to give the plot more credibility. But where and when Italian film director Olmi’s 2005 Leipzig staging, designed by Arnaldo Pomodoro, is supposed to take place one cannot easily define.
The aesthetics of the Bauhaus, according to a booklet note, lie behind the visuals. The result is a grotesque mishmash, with costumes that borrow and blend from many past periods, as well as some yet to come. There’s a medieval oriental feel to some of them, and a sci-fi movie look to others. Ulrica (to give her the name from the Boston edition used in the packaging) looks like a cross between a porcupine and a spiny anteater. No, really. One wouldn’t mind so much if acting values were high, but Olmi’s singers stand there and deliver, seemingly unable to realise their own characterisations, or interact with the others. Visually, this show is terrible.
Quite why a conductor of Chailly’s calibre wanted to associate himself with it is a mystery. He provides impetus and lyricism, and the Gewandhaus Orchestra is predictably excellent. Decent voices too, with Pisapia’s Riccardo, Vassallo’s Renato and Eun Yee You’s Oscar demonstrating capability. But they’re fighting a losing battle, in which Verdi also comes off worst. George Hall