on 1 February 2013
This was shot over two performances in Busseto, in October 2008. Teatro Verdi in Busseto is a small but beautiful building inside the Pallavicino castle. This staging was captured on a Dynamic DVD when it played in Parma in 2004. It's a simple, traditional and beautiful staging that was scaled down for Busseto from Parma's much larger house (1200 seats in Parma vs. Busseto's 300). They could fit only 27 Parma orchestra players into the Busseto pit.
Director Lamberto Puggelli's staging employs a dramatically effective system to outline the action and convey a sense of time and space. The single set is a deck of a ship with sails, ropes and masts going up and down for scene changes. Costumes are rich and colorful. There is a thrilling battle scene between the pirates and the Turks. The staging and lighting are replete with wonderful and ingenious touches.
The four leads were relatively young and unknown singers at the time. They are all very good in every aspect, three are superb. The Parma choir, prepared by Martin Faggiani is as always first rate. Video direction by Tiziano Mancini is on the same high level of his work in Parma. The sound is fantastic. The PCM stereo track gives you the perspective of a seat deep in the house with some hall resonance. I have only a stereo setup and I played the DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio surround sound track accidentally. I don't know what my stereo setup does with this track (a stereo mix-down or just the front speakers?) but what I heard was very intriguing. The perspective is from a front row seat, no hall resonance, but what surprised me was the realistic sense of presence. The singers were located in a three dimensional vocal space very clearly and there was something in the sound that was very natural, lighter and more pleasant on the ears. The orchestra had that distinctive sound coming from a pit - this is very rarely captured; it's quite special. I ended up choosing the surround track, something I have never done before. I would be curious to hear from someone with a surround setup how it compares with the stereo.
Overall this production is a pleasure to experience from start to finish, a real gem.
This production is enhanced by the helpfully simplistic staging by Lamberto Puggelli who has cleverly designed each scene to conger up the correct feeling in the viewer of being there: on a ship, in a palace and so on. Over-elaborate staging can so easily detract from the action. The costuming is also very good, evoking the period of the action without being overdone. The orchestration is both sympathetic and inspiring.
Best of all, it's plain to see that every performer is giving of his/her very best. We have here both top class singing and top class acting and a well directed chorus. Luca Salsi in the role of Seid, the Moorish chieftain, is outstanding. What a voice! What singing! Silvia Dalla Banetta is equally good as Gulnara, Salsi's favourite sex slave. The character of Corrado, captain of the corsairs, comes across as the weaker man of the two in relation to Salsi, who comes across as someone who knows his own mind and also how to achieve his aims; but not with Gulnara, who manages to outwit him and achieve a way of escape for Carrado. Unfortunately, he's not keen to take advantage of her initiative and only does so after much persuading.
Gulnara is devastated to discover that Corrado loves Madora, beautifully sung and acted by Irina Lungu. Medora hears that Corrado has been killed and poisons herself. She is dying when Corrado arrives with Gulnara. Devasted when she finally dies, Corrado also commits suicide leaving the beautiful Gulnara in splendid isolation. As she stands their as the final curtain falls, I thought to myself how fortunate she was to now be free and rid of the lot of them. She represents strong, sensible womanhood and, indeed, strong sensible people. It seems such a strange thing to do for people to 'do themselves in' because they lose a loved one. We all lose loved ones from time to time and simply cannot afford the luxury of committing suicide in their wake and certainly not at their wake!
Verdi is such a brilliant composer that we can readily forgive him for ending most of his operas with the deaths of heroes and heroines. Although this is one of Verdi's lesser known and not as much performed operas, my view is that his music is just as outstanding here as anywhere else. My blu-ray facility was so good that only actually being there in the theatre could be any better. I'm so pleased I bought this recording, which I shall be able to enjoy watching many times. Thoroughly recommended. Buy and enjoy.
on 1 March 2015
This was traditionally considered to be one of Verdi's weakest operas and is seldom performed. It certainly seems much more of a throwback than other works of this period in Verdi's output. However, it is a much better work than previously considered and is full of the most enjoyable music throughout. Acts 1 and 2 contain some real highlights, not least cabalettas by Corrado and Seid. But Act 3 is superb throughout with passages reminiscent of Trovatore and Righoletto.
The production is excellent with impressive sets and costumes in a traditional manner. The cast do Verdi proud especially Irina Lungu as Medora and Silvia Dalla Benetta as Gulnara. Luca Salsi is a top class Seid and Bruno Ribeiro really looks the part of Il Corsaro.
This is a must for lovers of Verdi.