Carlos Álvarez, Lisette Oropesa, Liparit Avetisyan, Ramonza Zaharia; Royal Opera House Chorus & Orchestra/Antonio Pappano; dir. Oliver Mears (London, 2022)
Opus Arte DVD: OA1354D; Blu-ray: OABD7303D 135 mins
Oliver Mears’s first production following his appointment as director of opera for the Royal Opera was this 2021 staging of Verdi’s tragedy, set in the mid-20th-century but opening with a Renaissance-themed party at the end of which the art-loving Duke blinds Monterone, who has challenged his entitlement and indeed cursed him.
This is the least convincing gesture in a staging that in broad terms sticks to the narrative. Simon Lima Holdsworth’s sets acknowledge the production’s depiction of a Duke with artistic tastes – Titian’s Venus of Urbino is an inspiration. Having the kidnapped Gilda replaced by a grotesque blown-up doll parodying the painting is a nice touch, while the final scene presenting the rundown inn by the river is memorably atmospheric.
Vocal and musical standards are high. From the doom-laden opening bars of the prelude onwards, Antonio Pappano’s conducting is masterly, offering one of the best accounts available. Carlos Álvarez looks deeply into the title-role, providing a searching interpretation of the great monologue ‘Pari siamo’ in his complex and vocally tireless reading. A skilful actor, Armenian tenor Liparit Avetisyan conveys an emotionally cold, vocally warm Duke – invariably voiced with appealing lyricism and thus surprisingly likeable despite his despicable behaviour. Lisette Oropesa’s Gilda is equally accomplished, her character’s lack of worldly experience entirely credible. Brindley Sherratt explores all the possibilities of his heavily tattooed Sparafucile while Ramona Zaharia matches him perfectly as a drunken victim of a Maddalena, though Eric Greene’s Monterone does not quite strike home vocally as it should.