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Customer Review

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A very good second choice, 5 April 2012
This review is from: Stiffelio [1993] [DVD] [2010] (DVD)
The Verdi canon abounds with famous names but there is also a B team (Il Corsaro, Alzira and others) which are hardly ever performed. Stiffelio certainly deserves to be regarded as among the best of the rest for the worth of the opera is very evident in this production from Covent Garden. Sometimes regarded as Verdi's forgotten opera a questionable subject matter and early censorship problems relegated the opera to undeserved obscurity for well over a century.

The opera has a fine musical score which is well served by Sir Edward Downes and there is a fine cast of singers. In the title role Jose Carreras impresses as the protestant minister whose faith is at first shattered when he discovers his wife's adulterous liason with a family friend. The singer is the epitome of the Verdi conception of the ardent tenor but some of his gestures come across as highly artificial. The only major female role is in the capable hands of Catherine Malfitano as the guilt stricken wife. The singer succeeds in portraing a touching vunerability. As her father bent on revenge
Gregory Yurisich does well in the emotionally charged baritone role of Stankar. Among the lesser roles Robin Leggate does his best with the rather thankless role of the selfserving Raffaele, the cause of all the trouble. The Covent Garden reliable Gwynne Howell has the sturdy bass role of Jorg a fellow priest and admirer of the teachings of Stiffelio.

The opera world is full of surprises and 1993 was no exception for later that year the Met also staged Stiffelio. The title part was a new role for Placido Domingo and he and Vladimir Chernov as Stankar give masterly performances. These two interpretations plus the handsome, finally detailed sets make this my first choice for my Verdi library of DVDs and it is probably the best introduction to the opera. That said the Covent Garden production is a very good second choice. The sets are not as impressive as those of the Met but create the right atmosphere for this dark opera. I first viewed the opera on Arts World and was impressed by the camera work of the ever reliable Brian Large, who is also responsible for filming the Met's version.

As yet no version of Alzira exists on DVD. The Dynamic label have issued a DVD of Il Corsaro which has a bravado performance by the famous Verdi baritone Renato Bruson but the opera's limitations are manifestly apparent.

Trottman
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