[Met Performance] CID:267900
I Vespri Siciliani {30} Metropolitan Opera House: 03/17/1982.

(Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
March 17, 1982
In Italian


I VESPRI SICILIANI {30}
Verdi-Scribe/Duveyrier

Elena...................Renata Scotto
Arrigo..................Wieslaw Ochman
Guido di Monforte.......Pablo Elvira
Giovanni da Procida.....Ruggero Raimondi
Ninetta.................Isola Jones
Danieli.................Dana Talley
Manfredo................Robert Nagy
Tebaldo.................Charles Anthony
Sire di Bethune.........Julien Robbins
Roberto.................John Darrenkamp
Conte Vaudemont.........William Fleck

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

Production..............John Dexter
Set designer............Josef Svoboda
Costume designer........Jan Skalicky
Lighting designer.......Gil Wechsler
Choreographer...........Donald Mahler

[Le Quattro Stagioni ballet not performed]

Translation by Caimi

I Vespri Siciliani received eight performances this season.

[The classic ballet, Le Quattro Stagioni, intended for Act III, Scene 2, was not included in this production.]

Review of Peter Goodman in Newsday

'Vespri' without the frills

"I Vespri Sicilani" was Verdi's grand opera, composed in 1855 to show that he could write a work for Paris, complete with the ballets, pageantry and massive set-pieces French audiences loved.

John Dexter's Metropolitan Opera production strips away all the Parisian trimmings to concentrate on the work's skeleton of ominous hatred and terrible vengeance. That staging returned to the Met Wednesday night for the first time since the 1974-75 season, in an uneven performance.

The libretto, by Eugene Scribe and Charles Duveyrier, tells of a Sicilian uprising against French conquerors in 1282. The story is cunningly twisted from ordinary patriotic fervor by making the French almost sympathetic and the Sicilian leader, Procida, into a man who would sacrifice even his honor for his country.

There is only one significant female role, but it is crucial: Elena, a Sicilian noble in love with the patriot Arrigo, who discovers he is actually the son of the French governor, Monforte. Their torment, as loyalty and love are bent and dislodged, provides much of the dramatic interest.

Renate Scotto, whose vocal difficulties have been much in evidence this season, sang Elena, to Wieslaw Ochman's Arrigo. Elena fits Scotto's voice better than Norma or even Musetta, two of the other roles she has undertaken this season. Scotto showed her lovely floating pianissimo, a well-controlled trill and the ability to sing well if not that appealingly, as long as the music was not high, loud and fast.

She tried to act with great intensity, and the effort she put into the singing helped. But much of the time she seemed to be ignoring the stage to sing straight at the audience.

Ochman has a sturdy tenor of almost baritone weight and a somewhat metallic edge that tended to become nasal and white when forced. His acting varied from board-stiff to black-jacketed punk, in the crucial confrontation with his father.

The strongest performances came from baritone Pablo Elvira as Monforte, and bass Ruggero Raimondi, returning to the Met after a nine-year absence, as Procida. Elvira has a smooth, even, dependable voice. It is not especially commanding, but he uses it intelligently both as musician and actor.

Raimondi has an excellent, deep, unforced sound with the heft of good bourbon. Procida begins as a simple patriot and ends as a vengefully evil person, like a Sarastro in reverse. In what was the best display of vocal acting of the night, he reacted to the news that his ally Arrigo was in fact Monforte's son by singing with a voice suddenly leaden, drained of hope and flat with despair.

James Levine led the orchestra at a pace that at times seemed hurried. The chorus was ragged and uncertain, and some of its behavior was merely perfunctory.

The strength of this production lies in the way Dexter creates an atmosphere of tense foreboding. He uses the barren sets of Josef Svoboda, dominated throughout by a massive stairway, and Jan Skalicky's ominous costumes, in which the Sicilians are all in black and white and the French in capes of blue and gray. The final moments, as the Sicilians silently surround and slaughter the unarmed French, ring with fear.



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