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SEEN AND HEARD INTERNATIONAL OPERA  REVIEW
 

 Verdi, Luisa Miller: Soloists, Bayersiches Staatsorchester. Chor der Bayerischen Staatsoper.Conductor: Massimo Zanetti, Nationaltheater Munich 23.7.2009 (JMI) 

Production: Bayerisches Staatsoper.

Director: Claus Guth.
Sets and Costumes: Christian Schmidt.
Lighting: Michael Bauer.

Cast:

Luisa Miller: Krassimira Stoyanova.
Rodolfo: Mikhail Agafonov.
Miller: Zeljco Lucic.
Count Walter: Michele Pertusi.
Wurm: Steven Humes.
Duchess Federica: Elena Maximova.
Laura: Tara Erraught.


This production was premiered in May 2007 and has stage direction by Claus Guth, who made his debut in Munich with it. On this occasion Claus Guth focuses his work on a psychological presentation of the characters and more specifically of their family life, with repeated use of doubles, who use the same movements one in front of the other, as if they had a mirror in between them. This frequent use of double characters is somewhat confusing, especially regarding Wurm, who is sometimes disguised as Miller, and at others as Count Walter and even Rodolfo. All this is achieved with a revolving stage with four different spaces separated by curtains. Much of the time though, these spaces are in fact only two, namely the Miller house, with a table, a few chairs and a cello, and the Count’s house, with large couches, lamps and drinks displayed. In the final scene we do have four equal spaces, always aspects of of Miller’s home, and with up to eight doubled Rodofos and Luisas. The action is brought to the present day as a confrontation between ordinary and powerful people, which is not exactly original, but still valid. The chorus, always dressed in black are not involved in the action and sing outside the different stage spaces; they seem to be observing the tragedy without getting involved, as in a kind of flash-back. The prodiuctiom is actually very good, although distinctly confusing on more than one occasion.

Musical direction was in the hands of Mássimo Zanetti, who was not particularly persuasive. His reading was rather dull and routine during most of the opera and only came to life in the final scene. To be fair, it is not easy to properly judge the musical aspects of most operas in this Festival, since rehearsals seem to be almost non-existant and are based on earler performances from the regular season. The Orchestra was not at the same standard as it had been earlier, while the chorus sang at its usual very high level.

The Bulgarian soprano Krassimira Stoyanova was the protagonist of the opera and gave a very convincing performance. She is one of the best in this repertoire today and for me, she was by far the best singer on stage. I still believe thought that she lacks sufficient charisma to become a first rank soprano.

In Munich, the Rodolfo character has usually been sung by the Mexican tenor Ramón Vargas, who is very highly regarded. For unknown reasons Vargas cancelled and in his place we had the Russian Mikhail Agafonov. If readers consider that to be in opera you simply need a good voice, then Agafonov should be a leading opera singer. On the other hand, if my readers believe that to be an opera singer needs only a good voice, then Agafonov is not a good one. He has a wide, not overly attractive voice and powerful high notes but no other virtues to my way of thinking. There is no expressiveness in his singing, no nuances, he is a poor actor on stage and here he sang continually betweenforte and fortissimo. I should add that the audience loved him.

Zeljco Lucic, one of the numerous Millers on stage, also gave very good performance, singing with good taste and lots of expressiveness: one of the best singers currently in the role.

Michele Pertusi was a good enough Count Walter, although his voice is not the best suited to the character; long in nobility but short in volume. Wurm was very well served by the American Steven Humes and Duchess Federica was the Russian mezzo soprano Elena Maximova, who has a spectacular figure, and a not too attractive voice. The young Irish soprano Tara Erraught made an excellent impression as Laura. 

There was a full theatre again with a magnanimous audience, as is usual for this kind of opera. At the final bows, Krassimira Stoyanova was a awarded a great success while Lucic and Agafonov were also cheered.

José M Irurzun

 

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