[Met Performance] CID:255640
Luisa Miller {33} Metropolitan Opera House: 11/20/1978.


Metropolitan Opera House
November 20, 1978

Giuseppe Verdi--Salvatore Cammarano

Luisa...................Katia Ricciarelli
Rodolfo.................Carlo Bini
Miller..................Cornell MacNeil
Count Walter............Paul Plishka
Wurm....................James Morris
Federica................Mignon Dunn
Laura...................Shirley Love
Peasant.................Lou Marcella

Conductor...............James Levine

Director................Nathaniel Merrill
Set designer............Attilio Colonnello
Costume designer........Charles Caine
Choreographer...........Thomas Andrew

Luisa Miller received eleven performances this season.

Photograph of Katia Ricciarelli as the title role in Luisa Miller by James Heffernan/Metropolitan Opera.

Review of Bob Micklin in Newsday

In 1968, the Metropolitan Opera unveiled a new production of Verdi's "Luisa Miller," directed by Nathaniel Merrill. Until then, it had been one of the orphans of the Met repertoire, having been pretty much ignored after its Met debut in 1929.

But while the 1968 version brought more attention to "Luisa Miller," the Met again dropped it after the 1971-72 season. Monday night, it was revived with Merrill's direction and the decade-old scenery of Attilio Colonello. New costumes have been furnished by Charles Caine, and David Reppa is listed as associate designer.

There were also several important first performances in Monday night's cast. Josť Carreras, the Spanish tenor, was forced to cancel his entire season at the Met because of a painful disorder in his upper spine. As a result, Italian tenor Carlo Bini replaced him as Rodolfo, the tormented hero of the opera. Bini made his Met debut only last week as Don Josť in "Carmen."

Also appearing in the Met's "Luisa Miller" for the first time were Katia Ricciarelli as Luisa, Paul Plishka as Count Walter, James Morris as the villainous Wurm and Shirley Love as Luisa's friend, Laura. James Levine, the Met's music director, was the conductor.

Since "Luisa Miller" is not overly familiar to New York opera goers perhaps it should be put in perspective. It was premiered in Naples In 1849. It came after Verdi had won acclaim with "Nabucco," "Ernani," "Macbeth," but shortly before he became truly famous with "Rigoletto," "Il Trovatore" and "La Traviata" in the early 1850's.

It has a rather dumb libretto, the work of Salvatore Cammarano, who also contributed one of opera's all- time dumb librettos to Verdi's "Il Trovatore." Many musicologists have observed that "Luisa Miller" - based on a play by Friedrich Schiller was Verdi's trial run for his great "La Traviata." Both deal in star-crossed lovers who meet their doom through family pressures and jealousies that rage beyond their control. Yet Verdi's compositional genius inevitably managed to transcend even the most leaden stories supplied him. There are striking arias that turn into duets or quartets with almost magical ease and passages of bel canto singing which
modernized that florid art and portend a new style of intimacy in opera. A flood of melody that seems unstoppable. Even if the shameless melodrama of "Luisa Miller" makes you uncomfortable, you can't deny Verdi's musical invention.

Not that this Met revival proved an ideal one. Ricciarelli was extremely good, her pure, controlled soprano voice and physical attractiveness were just right for the title role. Bini, however, was a stiff actor and too often sang with a hollow, nasal tone. Baritone Cornell MacNeil, as Luisa's father, couldn't make the high-note ending to his big aria in the first act, and his voice, while resonant, was produced with a vibrato wide enough to drive a truck through.

As Wurm, Morris belted out every note in his normal, rafter-ringing style, but his acting was wooden. Yet Plishka, as the scheming count, acted and sang with conviction. "Luisa Miller" demands a lot of heroic vocal work, but conductor Levine gave his cast extra problems with his quirky tempos. He didn't seem able to make up his mind about how fast or slow he wanted the music to proceed.

In short, a somewhat confused production, yet one that will certainly interest Verdi devotees and hard-core fans of grand opera.

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