We are here to encourage the development of gifted young singers and to stimulate the growth of New York City's invaluable chamber opera companies. But we will not neglect the Metropolitan Opera either. Get ready for bouquets and brickbats.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013


Charles Williamson, David Anchel, Hans Tasjian, Michael Morrow, Lauren Onsrud, Jason Plourde
Heard several years ago at the Met, we have wondered how and why Luisa Miller vanished from the repertory and were thrilled to learn that Dell'Arte Opera Ensemble would present this thrilling opera in concert version.  Coming from Verdi's middle period, with a libretto by Salvatore Cammarano, adapted from a Schiller story, this is a true mid 19th c. potboiler with political intrigue, frustrated love, murder and suicide.  The more cool ironic contemporary opera we see, the more we crave passion and melodrama.  Luisa Miller has that in spades.

Poor Luisa is in love with "Carlos", not knowing that he is Rodolfo,the son of her father's enemy Count Walter.  The slimy and appropriately yclept Wurm has the hots for lovely Luisa and plots with Count Walter to destroy the romance by extorting a letter from her denying her love for Rodolfo.  The Count agrees because he wants his son to marry the Duchess Federica, a childhood friend.  The injured Rodolfo drinks poison and gives some to Luisa.  End of story.

But there is more going on here than meets the eye and ear.  Verdi wrote many operas dealing with the father-daughter relationship and it is notable that Miller only wants his daughter to be happy whereas Count Walter want to control and manipulate his son to fulfill his own wishes.  The concept of letting one's daughter choose her own spouse must have seemed revolutionary in Verdi's time.

The music is gorgeous and was well-played by Andrew Sun at the piano.  The roles were well cast and the singers all did a fine job, conducted by Christopher Fecteau, Artistic Director of the company, who decided to present this opera when blessed with a generous supply of singers able to do the job.  Tenor Michael Morrow invested Rodolfo's arias with a lot of color and had a lovely ardent sound. Baritone Jason Plourde made a sympathetic Miller. Renowned bass David Anchel (yes, Matthew's father) was striking and forceful as Count Walter.  Bass Hans Tashjian was chilling as the evil Wurm. We couldn't help thinking of Sparafucile.  As a matter of fact, we saw the perfect cast for Rigoletto up there onstage and hope that Dell'Arte Opera Ensemble will consider doing that next season--but not in Las Vegas!

On the female side, we enjoyed mezzo Kathryn Allyn in the low-lying role of Federica.  As far as the eponymous heroine, we got to enjoy three excellent sopranos, a different one in each act. Monica Niemi was perfect for Act I in which Luisa is a sweet innocent girl in love. The more powerful soprano Andrea Chinedu Nwoke has a larger richer voice and a mature sound that was perfect for the second act and Lauren Onsrud had the chops to handle the death scene in Act III.

We loved the Luisa-Rodolfo duet in Act I and also the duet between Rodolfo and Federica.  The act ended with a stunning quartet.  In Act II we thrilled to the father-son duet and the father-daughter duet in Act III.  The final trio was heartbreaking.  No one can break your heart like Verdi.

© meche kroop

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