[Met Performance] CID:314230
Metropolitan Opera Premiere
Stiffelio {1} Metropolitan Opera House: 10/21/1993.
 (Metropolitan Opera Premiere)
(Debuts: Peter Riberi, Margaret Lattimore
Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
October 21, 1993
Metropolitan Opera Premiere

STIFFELIO {1}
Giuseppe Verdi-Francesco Maria Piave

Stiffelio...............Plácido Domingo
Lina....................Sharon Sweet
Stankar.................Vladimir Chernov
Jorg....................Paul Plishka
Raffaele................Peter Riberi [Debut]
Dorotea.................Margaret Lattimore [Debut]
Federico................Charles Anthony

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

Production..............Giancarlo Del Monaco
Designer................Michael Scott
Lighting designer.......Gil Wechsler

Stiffelio received eleven performances this season.

Production a gift of the late Cynthia Wood

Review of Dale Harris in the Post

At 150, new and just so very Verdi

How amazing that it should have taken Verdi's "Stiffelio" nearly 150 years to find its way into the world's major opera houses. At its Met debut on Thursday evening, this hitherto neglected - and thus virtually unknown - opera stood revealed as a work of tremendous power, an unlikely tale of adultery, murderous revenge and saintly forgiveness irradiated by music of extraordinary depth and originality.

Though hindered at every turn by the local censor at the time he was composing "Stiflelio," Verdi poured into this strange, often implausible drama all his compassion for wayward humanity. Especially moving is the daringly brief and austere final scene, in which Stiffelio, a Protestant minister, forgives his errant wife, Lina, before the entire congregation of his church by quoting the words of Jesus about the Woman Taken in Adultery. The final bars, richly harmonized and crowned by a top C from the soprano, are simply magnificent.

The Met's production, staged by Giancarlo Del Monaco, is fittingly straightforward, a distinct relief after the excesses of recent seasons. In this presentation, the characters emerge with striking clarity, even if some of the details of life in the Protestant community of Salzburg - where the opera, improbably enough, takes place - seem distinctly odd. The sets by Michael Scott are handsome and atmospheric, though it was disconcerting to discover in the final scene that the unmistakably Gothic church we had been looking at from the outside in Act 2 possessed a neoclassical interior.
As usual at the Met, the chorus and orchestra (a momentary lapse or two from the latter not withstanding) were exemplary, finer in quality than anything to be heard elsewhere in opera today. James Levine's conducting was authoritative.

In the title role, tenor Placido Domingo was masterful, singing with the combination of beauty and power that have made him a star. With a more vivid enunciation of the text, his characterization would gain tremendously in individuality. As Stankar, the father of Lina, and killer of her paramour, baritone Vladimir Chernov showed again that he is the great hope among the world's Verdi baritones. Though hobbled vocally by a throat infection, he phrased with revelatory musicality. In this respect, he put Sharon Sweet, who sang the role of Lina, to shame. Though there is gold in the soprano's voice, it only emerged when she sang in the big ensembles at full-strength and at the top of the staff. Elsewhere, she sounded vocally uneven and stylistically provincial: unlike Chernov, she showed no instinct for the weight, coloration and expressive emphases of the Verdian line. Her acting, moreover, was primitive. Paul Plishka, who played Jorg, Stiffelio's clerical colleague, was vocally rough. The two youthful debutantes of the evening, however, made a highly favorable impression: Margaret Lattimore, as Lina's cousin, and Peter Rineri, as Lina's lover.

But make no mistake about it, the most significant debut was that of the opera itself. Nearly a century after his death, Verdi has triumphed anew.



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