This opera production has much going for it. It is quite ably and imaginatively directed by Nicolas Joel, who later this year assumes duties as director of the Paris Opera. The cast features many familiar talents, including Lithuanian soprano Violeta Urmana as Leonora. She has an unusual background in opera: she established herself as one of the leading young mezzos, and then, in December 2002, took on her first soprano role, when she appeared at La Scala as Iphigénie in Gluck's Iphigénie en Aulide. She has since sung Aida, Isolde, Leonora and other major soprano roles, leaving her mezzo past behind her. The other cast members include Marcello Giordani as Don Alvaro, Carlo Guelfi as Don Carlo, Julia Gertseva as Preziosilla and Roberto Scandiuzzi as Frá Melitone.
Everyone here does reasonably well, though I would say none of the singing is outstanding. That said, Giordani and Urmana make it worthwhile for the beauty of their voices. Moreover, Mehta fashions a compelling interpretation of this challenging and not wholly consistent opera, and he draws fine playing from the orchestra. The big scenes with chorus are quite colorful: try the Third Act numbers, tracks 14-17 on the second disc ("Lorché pifferi e tamburi", "Venite all'indovina", "Qua, vivandiere" and "A buon mercato"), where Julia Gertseva and Carlo Bosi turn in fine work. As for the technical aspects, the sets are atmospheric, the camera work fine, and the sound reproduction excellent.
I should also mention that Bruno de Simone as Frá Melitone is quite good, both dramatically and vocally. He may not look the role in his diminutive size, but he's quite convincing. There have been only a few other DVD recordings of this opera, including efforts by Levine and the Met (from 1984, with Price) and Gergiev (from 1998 at the Mariinsky Theater). This TDK production is probably the best bet among recent entries, not least because of its obvious technological advantages in both sound and video. Recommended.
Copyright © 2009, Robert Cummings