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Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)
Luisa Miller - tragic melodrama in three acts (1849)
Count Walter, local landowner – Raffaele Arié (bass); Rodolfo, Count Walter’s son – Luciano Pavarotti (tenor); Frederica, Duchess of Ostheim and Walter’s niece – Cristina Angelakova (mezzo); Wurm, Count Walter’s steward – Ferruccio Mazzoli (bass); Miller, a retired soldier – Matteo Manuguerra (baritone); Luisa, Miller’s daughter – Gilda Cruz Roma (soprano)
Chorus and Orchestra Sinfonica RAI di Torino/Peter Maag
rec. live, RAI Auditorium, Turin, 6 December 1974. ADD
Italian libretto. Plot summary in English.
ARTS ARCHIVES 43088-2 [57.07 + 79.40]
Experience Classicsonline

First performed at San Carlo, Naples in 1849, for a long while Luisa Miller received less than its due in terms of performances, recordings and critical standing alike, being overshadowed by Verdi’s later work. It’s therefore no surprise to learn that its performance history shows long gaps. Take New York’s Metropolitan Opera as an example: the opera’s premiere took place in December 1929, but it seems not to have been performed there again until 1968. Interest in the work appear to have increased in the ’sixties and ’seventies, as evidenced by recordings in the 1960s – on RCA with Carlo Bergonzi and Anna Moffo, conducted by Fausto Cleva - and 1970s (on Deutsche Grammophon, with Katia Ricciarelli and Placido Domingo, conducted by Lorin Maazel) and on Decca (with Montserrat Caballé, Luciano Pavarotti and Sherril Milnes, conducted by Peter Maag). This last recording has deservedly had a good press, both at the time of its release and since.
Now, on this issue from Arts Music, we get the chance to hear, in very decent sound, an Italian radio broadcast of the opera, also conducted by Maag and featuring Pavarotti in superb voice. It’s a live performance in front of a studio audience, recorded a few months before the Decca recording. Pavarotti’s superlative Rodolfo, full of passionate involvement and beauty of tone, is one good reason for acquiring this set, even if you own the Decca recording. Another reason is the conducting of Maag; though his work on the Decca recording is also sensitive and intelligently varied, the orchestral playing he induces here is even more fully idiomatic. There is a kind of organic unity to this performance, a sense of one phase of the work growing out of its predecessor and giving birth to what follows, that is absent from the Decca recording, which doubtless involved edits and retakes and, good as it is, has a certain slightly stilted quality when heard alongside this RAI recording.
Gilda Cruz Romero brings a youthful intensity to her interpretation of the role of Luisa, characterising the role persuasively and singing with engagement and nimbleness. Matteo Manuguerra is a menacing Miller, strikingly so in Act III, and throughout sings with admirable firmness of tone. Ferruccio Mazzoli is an insidious Wurm, a minor masterpiece of vocal characterisation. Raffaele Arié, as Count Walter, sings with authority and even relatively minor roles are performed by singers of distinction, as in Anna Di Stasio’s Laura and Christina Angelakova’s Frederica. Throughout the work of orchestra and chorus is exemplary. In short, a highly enjoyable set, with all of the advantages and very few of the disadvantages of a live recording.
Glyn Pursglove
see also reviews by Robert J Farr (Recording of the Month - October 2007) and Göran Forsling


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