Archive for the ‘Verdi’ Category

Nabucco, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, March 2013

31 March, 2013

After Verdi’s dissatisfaction with his second opera he nearly gave up, but thank goodness he didn’t because this third one is magnificent, apart from its rather weak ending. Placing the action in the 1940s rather than the original setting of 586 BC is a good idea, but it never really gelled and I found Daniele Abbado’s new production disappointing.

Va pensiero

Va pensiero

The singing however was quite another matter. Ukrainian soprano Liudmyla Monastyrska was spectacular as Nabucco’s adopted daughter Abigail. Covent Garden audiences who remember her terrific Lady Macbeth from June 2011 will know what to expect, and she certainly provided it, giving huge colour to a bland production. Her recitative, aria and cabaletta at the start of Act II were riveting — her voice so expressive and powerful.

Her fellow Ukrainian, Vitalij Kowljow brought a full rich tone to the bass role of the Hebrew high priest Zaccaria, and Italian tenor Andrea Caré sang beautifully in the tenor role of Ismaele who is loved by both Abigail and her half-sister Fenena. Ismaele loves Fenena and although the heavy presence of Marianna Pizzolato in that role was rather lifeless, she sang with a lovely clarity of tone.

Royal Opera

Conducting by Nicola Luisotti showed great attention to the singers, and the chorus sang superbly, with a lovely Va pensiero in Act III. Leo Nucci as Nabucco showed very well the confusion that Solera’s libretto gives him after he calls himself a god, and then produced a glorious Act IV aria accepting the God of Israel. The cello solo when Abigail shows remorse was beautifully played, and Luisotti produced fine musicianship from the orchestra.

Zaccaria, Nabucco, Abigail

Zaccaria, Nabucco, Abigail

From the Amphitheatre the movements of the chorus looked rather contrived, with one group of people waiting to move forward before another group moved aside, though it may have appeared more natural from lower in the House. And the video projections were not fully visible from the front row of the Amphi rendering them only partially visible to nearly half the audience — no wonder it was not liked from the greater heights of La Scala. The fact that it’s a co-production with Milan, Barcelona and Chicago doesn’t surprise me in these days of austerity, but if resources are scarce perhaps we should leave such minimalist new productions to the English National Opera, with Covent Garden concentrating on bringing in world class singers, which they have done here to great effect.

Performances with this cast continue until April 8, and from April 15 to 26, Domingo takes over from Nucci — for details click here. On April 29 there will be a delayed live cinema screening, and it will be broadcast on BBC Radio 3 on June 8 at 6pm.

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I Lombardi, University College Opera, Bloomsbury Theatre, March 2013

19 March, 2013

After UCOpera’s production of a Rameau work last year, which suffered from over-ambitious direction that didn’t gel, I was unsure what this year’s I Lombardi would be like. I need not have worried — it was terrific.

Giselda, image ©UCOpera

Giselda, image ©UCOpera

Suits of armour and chain mail are expensive, so director Jamie Hayes has updated it to warring gangs from the 1960s, with guns and the occasional knife. I Lombardi meets West Side Story, but it really works, and Charles Peebles produced wonderful playing from the orchestra. Early Verdi is so full of energy, and UCL have made a perfect choice for his bicentenary year. This is the opera that followed Nabucco, which starts a new run at the Royal Opera House on Easter Saturday, so here is an excellent chance to see the next collaboration between Verdi and his early librettist Temistocle Solera.

As an enthusiast for Italian unification and the Risorgimento, the story of Lombards fighting Islamic warriors formed an attractive background that would have resonated with Verdi’s audience, but the First Crusade no longer inspires us, so I applaud the change of location in time and space. The chorus members were entirely comfortable with their roles and sang with conviction, and the three pole dancers, particularly the middle one, were great fun. UCOpera uses UCL students, complemented by a sprinkling of professionals and they were lucky to have Katherine Blumenthal in the main role of Giselda.

She suffered the misfortune of serious transport disruptions, but hurtled down the motorway in a car, arriving with five minutes to spare though you wouldn’t have known it. Already in Act I her voice showed a fine characterisation of her feelings, and as the opera revolves around her it was a huge pleasure to see such a wonderful vocal portrayal of the role. Giselda is a source of affection and concern to four men: her father Arvino, his brother Pagano, crime boss Acciano and syndicate member Oronte, who is in love with her.

Pagano as hermit, image ©UCOpera

Pagano as hermit, image ©UCOpera

Among the students, Joseph Dodd sang well as Acciano, and Edward Cottell sang an excellent bass as Arvino’s right hand man Pirro. Among the professionals, Adam Smith sang strongly as Oronte, Jeff Stewart gave a lyrical rendering of Arvino’s role, and John MacKenzie was super as Pagano. His compelling stage presence was perfect for this criminal turned hermit who eventually achieves redemption.

Good set designs by Will Bowen and the clever lighting by Matthew Eagland managed to convey both fire and rain at the right moments, as well as changes of mood and location. If the production was a little tongue in cheek at times that only made it more fun, and director Jamie Hayes showed a fine sense of humour. Charles Peebles’ conducting was exemplary and the orchestra did him proud, particularly the wonderful violin solo for the party scene in Act III.

Don’t miss this glorious but rarely-performed early Verdi. There are three further performances on March 20, 22, 23 — for details click here.

Rigoletto, Metropolitan Opera live cinema relay, 16 February 2013

17 February, 2013

The idea of Rigoletto in early 1960s Las Vegas during the days of the Rat Pack made me apprehensive, but the superb sets by Christine Jones and costumes by Susan Hilferty won me over completely. Count Monterone as an Arab sheikh, the colourful tuxedos of the men, the stylish dark green and purple of Sparafucile’s two different costumes, and the vanity plate on his car gave a terrific sense of atmosphere, and I loved the neon rain and lightning for the storm outside Sparafucile’s tavern in Act III.

The Duke in his casino, all images MetOpera/ Ken Howard

The Duke in his casino, all images MetOpera/ Ken Howard

Quibbles later, but the singing was wonderful. Željko Lučić was a well toned Rigoletto, and Piotr Beczala as the Duke hit the high notes, and his soliloquy Ella mi fu rapita at the start of Act II — when for four or five minutes he regrets losing Gilda — was beautifully delivered. As Gilda herself, Diana Damrau sang very sweetly. The duet with her father Rigoletto in Act I formed a touching scene, and her later recollection of the Duke, using the false name he has given her, Gaultier Maldè … core innammorato! came through with a sweet naivety that reappeared at the end as she promises to pray for her father from heaven.

Rigoletto and Gilda, Act I

Rigoletto and Gilda, Act I

Keeping her sheltered from the wiles and wickedness of the Duke’s casino where he works is his business, but taking vengeance and deciding to be the instrument of Monterone’s curse is to take on the role of God. Yet there is only one god in this story, namely the Duke who exercises absolute power, or at least is supposed to. This didn’t quite manifest itself in Michael Mayer’s production, though that is a minor quibble.

Rigoletto and Sparafucile

Rigoletto and Sparafucile

However I liked the way Sparafucile was portrayed, and Štefan Kocán sang the role with great finesse. Oksana Volkova made a very colourful and sexy Maddalena, and Robert Pomakov gave a wonderful rendering of Monterone’s utterances. The Arabian gear was a clever notion, as was the idea of using the trunk of a car rather than a sack for the dead body, allowing the stage to be dark while the body was lit up with the trunk open.

Gilda dies

Gilda dies

The main problem for me came with a lack of operatic drama at the end when Rigoletto realises his daughter is the victim of his own plot. For one thing he just seemed too nice a guy to undertake a murder, and he didn’t seem sufficiently shocked that the body was that of his beloved daughter rather than the Duke. Perhaps Michele Mariotti’s conducting could have helped more here by giving a sense of trembling and urgency when Rigoletto sings Dio! … mia figlia. As it was the ending felt more like a that of a musical than a Verdi opera.

La Traviata, English National Opera, ENO, London Coliseum, February 2013

3 February, 2013

Four scenes with no intermission and no sets, except for multiple curtains and a chair — but it works! This is Traviata cut to its essentials, concentrating on Violetta, and to a lesser extent Germont père.

Violetta, all images EON/ Tristram Kenton

Violetta, all images EON/ Tristram Kenton

Corinne Winters was a phenomenal Violetta, and as the opera ends she stands alone on stage facing Germont, Alfredo and Annina in the auditorium. Receding into the distance in her black slip, the lights go down, and it’s all over. There is no melodrama here, just a gentle vanishing that will affect the lives of those other three people, and gives the rest of us a view of who she is and what she feels. Peter Konwitschny’s stark production will surely have its detractors — and there were a smattering of boos for the production team — but I found it gripping, and moving.

2.La traviata, Corinne Winters, Ben Johnson 2 (c) Tristram Kenton

Concentrating on Violetta and Germont, brilliantly sung and portrayed by Anthony Michaels-Moore, is a clever device and their meeting in Scene 2 was a masterpiece of acting and timing. The tension and his gradual understanding of her plight were palpable. He has brought his young daughter, who rapidly feels sympathy for Violetta, and the turning point is when he slaps the young girl across the face, then turns his back, wondering what he has become. After the daughter exits, Violetta clings to him, wanting a father, and while one always feels for Violetta, the modern costumes, with Corinne Winters as such an attractive high-class prostitute, help the reality hit home.

I have reservations about portraying Alfredo as a bumbling bookish nerd because it’s not clear why she would be so attracted to him, but the director’s point is obviously that she wants to get away from the bling and goes for its exact opposite. The rowdy and uncouth behaviour of the party guests in evening dress adds emphasis to this contrast with Alfredo’s introspective world, and while the costumes for Violetta mark her out as especially glamorous, they also show her to be more demure.

Alfredo and Violetta, final scene

Alfredo and Violetta, final scene

Ben Johnson sang well as Alfredo, though this production upstages his character with those of his father and Violetta, making it hard for him. If you want a traditional production with all the party trimmings such as gypsies and matadors, then this co-production with Opera Graz is not for you, but if you want an intriguing insight into the main character it’s a must-see.

Fine singing from the chorus, and wonderful conducting by Michael Hofstetter who beautifully drew out the tension in Verdi’s music. And what a stunning performance by Corinne Winters as the frail one, making her European debut. Don’t miss seeing her.

Performances continue until March 3 — for details click here.

Un Ballo in Maschera, Metropolitan Opera live cinema relay, December 2012

9 December, 2012

David Alden’s vivid production of Verdi’s Ballo, portrays the main characters Riccardo and Renato in their historical roles as the Swedish king Gustav III and his murderer Anckarström. The assassination took place at a masked ball, and in an account written by a Polish officer who was present, the king received an anonymous warning “N’allez pas au bal ce soir. Il y va de votre vie” (Do not go to the ball this evening. Your life will be lost).

Fortune telling with King in disguise, all images MetOpera/ Ken Howard

Fortune telling with King in disguise, all images MetOpera/ Ken Howard

Captain Anckarström, chosen by the two main conspirators, shot the king in the back at close range with a pistol loaded with rusty nails to encourage gangrene, and the king took thirteen days to die. He forgave the conspirators, but Anckarström was captured, had his gun hand lopped off and was flogged for three days, before being beheaded and quartered.

Scribe wrote a play on the incident, plus an opera libretto for Auber, titled Gustave III, ou Le bal masqué. Verdi wanted to use it for his own opera, but censors and other irritations transferred the action to Boston with a new libretto. Verdi used the invention of a love intrigue between Gustav and Anckarström’s, but in fact Gustav was homosexual, and the assassin nursed a different grievance. But many points of the story, such as the fortune-teller Ulrica Arfvidsson are quite accurate, and the king paid this society medium an incognito visit where she predicted his death by a man in a mask.

King and Amelia

King and Amelia

Verdi’s opera brings into Act I the main characters, Gustavo, Anckarström, Amelia, Ulrica, and the additional role of the page Oscar, and Alden used some of the bouncy music for a song and dance routine, as if this were to be Ballo, the Musical. The bare stage allowed plenty of movement and was very effective for the scene in a wild place outside the city in Act II. This was after the interval, which featured a love-in between the interviewer Deborah Voigt, who looked terrific, and Marcello Alvarez, along with a welcomely assertive Dmitri Hvorostovsky, who commented on the set amplifying the voices, perhaps explaining why the others in Act I seemed a bit strained at times.

Anckarström and Amelia

Anckarström and Amelia

After the first interval the problem was rectified, and as Act II started, Sondra Radvanovsky came through beautifully in her long soliloquy as Amelia. Marcello Alvarez sang Gustavo with a warm passion, and Dmitri Hvorostovsky played Anckarström with just the right feeling, from concern for the king’s safety to horror in finding the veiled woman he accompanies back to the city to be his own wife. With Stephenie Blythe as Ulrica in Act I, and Kathleen Kim as a lively page with a pretty voice, the singing of the cast complemented the orchestra to perfection under sensitive musical direction by Fabio Luisi.

Oscar tends the dying king

Oscar tends the dying king

Verdi’s music for this opera is inspired, and Sondra Radvanovsky’s Morrè, ma prima in grazia (I shall die, but first, in mercy … ) was upliftingly emotional. Her husband’s response was sung with great feeling by Hvorostovsky, as was the monologue by Alvarez, Forse la soglio attinse (Perhaps she reached her home … ) in the next scene, before the stage exploded into action for a dramatic ball scene. Ballo may not one of Verdi’s most famous operas, but don’t miss this in a repeat cinema screening if it’s available.

Otello, Metropolitan Opera live cinema relay, 27th October 2012

27 October, 2012

Wonderful costumes by Peter J. Hall, excellent sets by Michael Yeargan, all beautifully lit by Duane Schuler help bring this Elijah Moshinsky production to life, along with deeply expressive music from the orchestra under the direction of Semyon Bychkov.

Fleming as Desdemona, all images MetOpera/ Ken Howard

The star of the show was Renée Fleming as Desdemona, always beautiful and coming through in Act IV with a hugely sympathetic delivery of the Willow Song, showing emotion and bemused gentleness. Hers was a great performance, matched vocally by Johan Botha as Otello, but his characterisation was too one-dimensional, an angry man more suited to something like Rossini’s Otello that is not based on Shakespeare, rather than Verdi’s, which is. Hugely angry too was Falk Struckmann’s Iago, well expressed facially and in his menacing stage presence. His forceful singing carried great conviction, particularly in his marvellous delivery of the credo from Act II, though over all a little more subtlety would not have come amiss.

Iago, Cassio, and the handkerchief

Otello and Desdemona

Cassio was superbly sung and acted by young American Michael Fabiano, Desdemona’s attendant Emilia was sympathetically portrayed by Renée Tatum, and James Morris made a strong ambassador from Venice, showing fine gravitas. This was the second Moshinsky Otello I have seen in the past few months, the other being a different production in July at Covent Garden, and it serves to confirm this director’s superb sense of theatre.

As usual during these Met cinema screenings there were intermission features, and this time interviews were conducted by Sondra Radvanovsky. Rather oddly on this occasion one of the main singers was omitted — where was Falk Struckmann? He may well have been more interesting to hear from than Johan Botha, who came over in this interview as somewhat inarticulate, while Renée Fleming was her usual lovely self, and Michael Fabiano came over as delightfully ingenuous.

Otello, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, July 2012

13 July, 2012

We are surely lucky that this revival of Elijah Moshinsky’s wonderful 1987 production — the first since 2005 — was directed by the man himself, and it was hugely effective. The sets with those vast pillars help give the impression that a mere human tragedy is being played out against a world that will carry on as before, even though one man has succeeded in destroying first the happiness and then the lives of others.

Opening scene, all images ROH/ Catherine Ashmore

That man, Iago almost gave his name to this Verdi opera, and Lucio Gallo, who also sang that role in the previous revival, gave a riveting performance. In Act III when Otello reads out the message from the Doge that he is being recalled, and a successor appointed, Gallo showed a smug expectation that he would be the man. It is of course Cassio, but this fine acting helps give meaning to Iago’s evil schemes.

As Otello, Aleksandrs Antonenko made a very fine entrance with his Esultate!, going on to portray a gullible leader, and he and Gallo were a perfect match. After Gallo has brilliantly sung Iago’s Credo in Act II, their duet exhibited his cleverness, and Antonenko’s voice showed how very troubled Otello is. And their later duet gave a gloriously strong ending to that Act.

Otello arrives to quell the fight in Act I

Anja Harteros gave a very fine portrayal of Desdemona, and her soliloquy in Act IV was beautifully done, followed by a heart wrenching Ave Maria. Antonenko, Harteros and Gallo gave this performance immense emotional heft, and were well served by Antonio Poli as a delightful Cassio, Hanna Hipp convincing as Iago’s wife Emilia, and Brindley Sherratt showing fine gravitas as the ambassador from Venice.

Venetian ambassador arrives in Act III

Supporting the entire performance was the hugely sensitive conducting of Antonio Pappano, which allowed the music to swell forth when needed. The chorus were in fine form as usual, and this was a terrific performance in a production whose attention to detail helps Verdi’s interpretation of Shakespeare’s drama to move us enormously. There are lots of clever touches, such as the sudden change of lighting in Act IV after Otello has entered and placed his sword down, the Act III off-stage brass heard from the front corners of the auditorium, and the lightning in Act I that appears both on-stage, and off-stage from the front of the lower slips.

After a seven year absence this revival is not to be missed.

Performances continue until July 24 — for details click here.

Falstaff, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, May 2012

16 May, 2012

The production team for Robert Carsen’s new staging of Verdi’s Falstaff received a mixed reception. Why so?

Falstaff in Windsor Forest, all images ROH

This is a co-production with La Scala where it will feature in Verdi’s bicentenary there next year. Carsen has updated the setting of Shakespeare’s Merry Wives of Windsor from Elizabethan times to 1950s England, with Sir John and other men in hunting red at the end. Nothing wrong with that, and I found Paul Steinberg’s vast set designs very effective, along with Brigitte Reiffenstuel’s costumes. In Act III the two huge walls that frame Falstaff’s location after his river ordeal open out to reveal a starry sky behind, and Sir John appears on horseback. The horse itself was his neighbour as he lay on a pile of straw earlier in the Act, rising to drink a little wine and feed the horse some small treat. Quite effective, so where was the problem?

Ford in disguise meets Falstaff

The end of Act II was set in Ford’s huge and brightly coloured kitchen, where the contents of the clothes hamper were tipped out of a large window facing the audience, Falstaff himself having scooched out behind one of the counters. Not a brilliant illusion, though passable enough, but before that there was a gratuitous comedic bustle as things were wildly tossed out of eye-level kitchen cupboards, and the assembled men went round the floor on all fours. This was a bit over the top, and comedy is best played seriously. Less can be more, but even that scene did not justify the many boos that greeted the production team.

The restaurant scene

The interplay of the characters was well directed, with Ambrogio Maestri singing well as Falstaff, and playing the comedy with admirable restraint. Here’s a man who’s a bit of a slob and can leave the funny bits to his henchmen, Alasdair Elliot and Lukas Jakobski as Bardolph and Pistol. This duo of the short and the tall was amusing to look at when they stood together, and I loved the small incident in Act I scene 2 when Bardolph came into the restaurant, wiping his hands on a table cloth before picking up a napkin to give back to one of the diners while purloining her handbag. A nice touch.

Verdi’s last opera is a musical masterpiece, started in collaborative secrecy with his brilliant librettist Boito, and Daniele Gatti conducted with great verve and sensitivity, moving things forward with huge effect. Musically this was a delight, and the singers brought the comedy very much to life.

Dalibor Jenis was a stylishly naïve Ford, Joel Prieto a handsome young Fenton, and Carlo Bosi a suitably dull Dr. Caius. The women all did very well with Ana Maria Martinez a charming Alice Ford, Marie-Nicole Lemieux a bumptiously fancy Mistress Quickly, the lining of her coat identical to her dress. Amanda Forsythe was vocally very pretty as Nannetta, and ex-Jette Parker young singer Kai Rüütel sang delightfully as Meg Page. Oh, and Rupert the Horse did a very fine job.

Audience ovations at the end for the conductor and singers, and despite the mixed reception accorded the production team, this Falstaff looks likely to last many years. The fact that the ROH has given us an effective production to such a superb opera is surely welcome after one or two recent duds, and this is part of the World Shakespeare Festival for 2012.

Performances continue until May 30 — for details click here. The final performance on May 30 will be relayed to 15 BP Summer Big Screens around the country, and on June 30 the production will be broadcast on BBC Radio 3.

Rigoletto, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, March 2012

30 March, 2012

In Act III of this opera, Rigoletto takes his daughter Gilda to Sparafucile’s tavern to show her the Duke’s real nature. She hears him singing La donna è mobile, sees him having fun with Maddalena, and is shocked and heartbroken. Her father takes her home, sends her off to Verona, but … being too busy arranging the murder of the Duke, he fails to accompany her. Revenge is his fatal flaw, and the result is tragedy.

Observing from outside the tavern, all images Johan Persson

As Rigoletto’s satisfaction turns to grief at finding his daughter’s body in the sack where the Duke’s should be, John Eliot Gardiner’s conducting had a lightness of touch that made the final thump from the orchestra so much stronger. Gilda’s head falls back as she finally expires, and her father cries out Ah, la maledizione!, recalling the curse laid on him by Monterone. It’s such a strong ending by Verdi, compared to Victor Hugo’s original play Le roi s’amuse, where the jester laments J’ai tué mon enfant, and falls to the ground. But of course in opera they can sing, and Ekaterina Siurina sang beautifully as Gilda, with Dimitri Platanias an outstanding Rigoletto. His lovely tone in Act I elicited my sympathy, and in Act II his heartfelt la mia figlia, followed by his condemnation of the courtiers came over with huge power. Revival director Leah Hausman staged it beautifully, and as the sneering courtier Marullo gives Rigoletto his stick back, it clatters uselessly to the ground.

But of course it is more than just Rigoletto and his daughter. Vittorio Grigolo as the Duke sang gloriously, showing just the right air of casual hedonism. Matthew Rose was a strong Sparafucile, and Christine Rice as his sister Maddalena was superb — seductive and charming in her interactions with the Duke.

Among the smaller roles, Zhengzhong Zhou showed fine vocal and stage presence as Marullo, Gianfranco Montresor came over very well as Monterone, and Elizabeth Sikora gave a fine portrayal of Gilda’s nurse. This was a team effort held together beautifully by John Eliot Gardiner, and my only complaint in this David McVicar production is the first scene of Act I.

Father and daughter at home

Gilda has only been in town for three months, she wants to have some fun, and the Duke, disguised as a student, has been following her to church. Yes, he’s a serial philanderer, but is he really a person to preside over dissolute orgies, which if you look closely — at the homosexual and heterosexual engagements going on — no-one is really doing anything. Yes, it’s impressionistic, but it’s not the right impression. The main point is that Gilda believes the Duke (albeit disguised as a student) to be in love with her, and the court should be a rather glamorous place. This is why her father needs to show her what the Duke is really like, by taking her to Sparafucile’s tavern.

The first scene makes it look as if the director is out to shock us, but the rest of the production is excellent, and the singing and conducting at the dress rehearsal was absolutely terrific. This is a cast very well worth seeing and performances continue until April 21 — for details click here.

Ernani, Metropolitan Opera live cinema relay, February 2012

26 February, 2012

After Verdi’s first four operas were premiered at La Scala, La Fenice in Venice commissioned the fifth, and the composer eventually plumped for Victor Hugo’s play Hernani, a drama on Castillian honour. The resulting opera Ernani may lack the irony and humour of the original play, but it supplies four glorious roles for soprano, tenor, baritone, and bass. Requiting Spanish honour leads to the death of the soprano and tenor right at the end of this production, and in the play the man sung by a bass kills himself too.

De Silva, Elvira, Don Carlo, all photos MetOpera/ Marty Sohl

This is Don Ruy Gomez De Silva, sung by Ferruccio Furlanetto, who inhabited the role of passionate yet honourable Spanish nobleman as if it was entirely his own nature. Here is a man who will protect an intruder with his life, once he has been accepted as guest, even though the intruder turns out to be his rival Ernani. This is the tenor, who appears in the first scene as leader of the bandits, and is love with De Silva’s ward, Elvira. She is adored by tenor, bass, and the baritone, King Carlos of Spain. The opera takes place in 1519 when Carlos is about to be elected Holy Roman Emperor, becoming Charles V, whose ghost appears in Verdi’s later opera Don Carlo. Here he is a very young man, portrayed with utter conviction by Dmitri Hvorostovsky.

Furlanetto as De Silva

After an unpromising start in the overture and the bandit camp, the scene changes to Elvira’s apartment in the castle and Angela Meade raised the level of performance hugely with her wonderful soliloquy expressing love for Ernani and distaste for De Silva. This young soprano produced wonderful trills and lovely soft sounds, and her aria in this scene was a tour de force. The later trio with Elvira, Ernani and Don Carlo came over beautifully, and Marcello Giordani sang strongly with the others, though he seemed to be straining in his own solos, particularly in the higher register. After De Silva enters and has been fobbed off with a story about what is going on in his castle, Furlanetto is left alone to sing a riveting monologue, wishing that his heart had become chilled with age rather than full of youthful ardour. Such wonderful singing from Furlanetto, and from Hvorostovsky, particularly when he shows Carlo’s strength and determination in Act III.

This early Verdi contains a wealth of beautiful music, and though the characters may not carry the interest inherent in many of his later operas, the singers turned in gripping performances, and I’m delighted the Met have broadcast it. The costumes by Peter J. Hall are wonderful, the camera work by Barbara Willis Sweete cleverly showed the full effect of the stage, and the chorus was magnificent. Marco Armiliato in the orchestra pit gave huge support to the singers, and there was a real bounce to the music immediately the chorus sang at the start of Act I.

Ernani and Elvira

The interval features were not up to the Met’s usual high standard. Joyce DiDonato looked awkward in her red dress, and seemed surprisingly wooden with the principals, though more comfortable with regular employees of the opera house, such as chorus director Donald Palumbo. And why do we need to hear the voice of the master carpenter as the scenery is shifted around? But Peter Gelb is an engaging presence, and his mouth-watering description of next season’s cinema highlights was a delight.