This is the French adaptation of I lombardi
which Verdi produced for Paris in 1847. The plot was altered, with the Lombardians becoming French Crusaders from Toulouse, but as much as possible of the shape and emotional curve of the Italian original was retained. Verdi wrote an orchestral introduction to replace the brief prelude of I lombardi
, made a few changes to his score and composed some new music, including the obligatory (for Paris) ballet whose music is pleasant and colourfully scored. Jérusalem has been slowly creeping back into the repertoire, and it is good to have it on disc as Verdi's centenary year approaches.
The Russian soprano Marina Mescheriakova brings to the role of Hélène a huge and splendidly firm voice and a fine understanding of the style required. She is tender in her Act I 'Ave Maria' and exciting in Act II's polonaise, 'Quelle ivresse'. Her lover Gaston is sung by Marcello Giordani, who is stylistically less secure, but vocally satisfactory. Roberto Scandiuzzi, as the villainous but complex Roger, gives a fine dramatic performance, and all three combine to make the beautiful Act IV trio very moving. The other roles are all more than competently handled, and Fabio Luisi conducts a stirring account of Verdi's energetic score. Highly recommended.
© BBC Music Magazine 2000