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Verdi: I Vespri Siciliani [Parma 2010] [Nucci, Armiliato, Prestia, Dessíi] [C Major: 723808] [DVD]  [NTSC]
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To celebrate Giuseppe Verdi's bicentenary in 2013, C Major is proud to present the truly unique project, TUTTO VERDI: All 26 operas released on DVD and Blu-ray, together with his immortal Requiem and special documentary.
C Major continues their Tutto Verdi project with a production of I vespri siciliani from the Teatro Regio di Parma.
This production features a top quality cast including Leo Nucci, Fabio Armiliato and Daniela Dessì.
This is a World Première on Blu-ray.
"This is how Verdi should be played" Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on Tutto Verdi
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The result, gentle reader, is what William Berger ("Verdi With A Vengeance") calls "...an opera that has never wholly pleased anybody, despite many excellent qualities ... If anything is missing in Vespri, it's the sustained level of emotional truth so evident in his previous three operas". Well, it pleased me very well, truth be told, and it has since I first heard it as a Met broadcast, many years ago, and if you love Verdi, you will want to add this to your Verdi operas because, with all its blemishes, it is very good Verdi overall, with many exceptionally moving moments.
Daniella Dessi sings Elena, a Sicilian duchess in mourning for her murdered brother. Her ...fervent admirer... Arrigo, is sung by her real life SO, Fabio Armeliato (and it's a good thing that they have a license with some of the ardent rolling around that occurs in Act I!! But I digress). Leo Nucci is Montforte, the local tyrant, who (quelle surprise!!) it is revealed is Arrigo's father, which throws a major league monkey wrench into plans by the unknowing Arrigo to assasinate him. Procida, an exiled patriot returned to Sicily is sung by Giacomo Prestia.
Dessi, a recognized Verdi soprano at a time when such are rare, does a nice job. She is able to do all the "Verdi tricks" ( melting pianissimi, rich mid voice, full top notes) superbly, despite the fact that the most demanding vocal parts come in the last act. She has a very real stage presence, although with somewhat limited acting skills.
Armiliato is not one of my favorite tenors: he has an annoyingly rough passagio at times wherein he attacks the note an octave below what is written to "kick start" the high note intended. Anyone who has studied singing will recognize it as bad technique. Listen to Carlo Bergonzi for an example of a smooth, seamless transition. That said, he does a (to me) surprisingly good job carrying off a very demanding tenor role.
What can be said about Leo Nucci that has not already been written? Born in 1942, there is little in the voice to suggest any diminishing of vocal skills and his acting is very good. Someone reviewing the Tutto Verdi series remarked that the title should have been "Tutto Nucci", since he is featured in many of the C Major releases. In each one I have seen, Nucci has been superlative, as he is here!
Prestia, as Procida, does a very good job. His "o tu Palermo" melts the heart. His acting is somewhat limited, though, but not sufficiently so to diminish the rating I gave this disc.
Staging is what I call "limited traditonal": there is some very innovative staging here, with the theatre being used as an extension of the stage. This is nothing new, but while it works very well in the main, having singers wander among the audience while doing an aria strikes me as a bit off putting. There are some cuts, none of which are serious,and (thank the opera gods!!) the ballet has been cut, as well.
Disc quality is excellent, with (for me) the indispensible DTS surround sound that makes the performance so immediately real. Subtitles abound.
Despite all the critical negativity on Vespri, this is one hugely enjoyable performance of a lovely opera .
This is a “grand opera” performed in a very small theater. The use of the actors and especially the chorus being deployed throughout the entire theater does get a bit claustrophobic in this production but is understandable given the large chorus and the very small size of the stage and theater as a whole. They wouldn't all fit on the stage at one time I'm afraid. I do wish for once somebody would mount this opera in period appropriate attire. Once again we have vaguely 19th century dress for a story that is supposed to take place in the 13th century. And the fact that the Sicilian "patriots" are dressed in a very similar blue uniform as are the occupying French makes things a bit confusing. Some individual scenes, such as the ball at the end of Act 3 are very colorfully and artfully staged but all in all the staging and costuming were done on a very low budget indeed. On the other hand I cannot fault the singing which is beautifully sung, very strong and emotive; nor can I fault the orchestra or conducting and these are the most important elements. I found this version of I Vespri very entertaining. Something I cannot say about most versions I have watched or listened to, most of which lead my mind to wander throughout long stretches. This opera is often criticized as a “stand and sing” opera where most of the action happens offstage but very little happens onstage. True enough, so its even more of a compliment when I say besides beautiful singing, all the main actors in this performance emoted enthusiastically, powerfully and convincingly keeping me engaged throughout. This is the rare performance of I Vespri that was actually fun to watch. The soprano aces her big arias in Acts 4 and 5. There are cuts including most but not all the ballet and the tenor aria in Act 5.
I do long for a truly “grand opera” production with elaborate staging and rich period appropriate costuming along with great singing actors, but this small stage/ small budget production made the most of what they had to work with. This performance gives the viewer a good Idea of what provincial, smaller scale opera looks like in Italy these days. I would add that the viewer who likes this style of production might also enjoy the mostly splendid Tutto Verdi series which includes every one of Verdi’s operas performed in smaller scale regional theaters, some of his more obscure works had never been filmed before.