Verdi: La Battaglia Di Legnano
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As part of the ambitious Tutto Verdi project, the rarely peformed La battaglia di Legnano is available for the first time on Blu-Ray. The patriotic war story of La battaglia gives a taste of the real-life revolutionary ideals of the composer, as he delivers a thinly veiled exhortation to throw off the bonds of foreign rule for love of country.
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Well it may be allegorical, but it ain't Verdi, so once again, we, the viewers and, especially, the fans of Verdi are left with less than we might have experienced had Mr. Cappuccio left Verdi's opera to speak for itself, even though the maestro was speaking to a time that is past. Be that as it may, there are some very positive things about the performance that make this disc worth having.
First strength here lies in the male singers: they are all good, with special "Bravi!!" to tenor Andrew Richards whom I had not heard before, but of whom I would like to hear more. The same is true of baritone Leonardo Lopez Linares who does a dandy job with the role of Rolando. Even bass Enrico Giuseppe Lori as Frederic Barbarossa has a rich, sonorous voice, and some stage presence.
Dimitra Theodossiu is not loved by all, which must be a burden that all sopranos must endure, judging by my past experiences. I have heard her in very good form and in less than such, and while she starts well, it seems to me that she is really fatigued by the end, which is not surprising, considering the nature of this role.
Chorus and orchestra do a very fine reading of the score, even though the latter, in various modern dress, have been left to line up without adding anything to the drama.
Another quality that I found positive was that of the disc. Picture is great and the DTS sound is awesome. When I first started it, the overture sounded like I was in the middle of the orchestra pit, and as the opera progressed, sound quality allowed precise location of singers and some lovely instrumental detailing.
I share Berger's thought that the opera itself is a "splendid work": Verdi had a story about which he was passionate and responded to it with an "excellent score". In fact, the opening night was the most rowdy Verdi ever experienced. Because of the historical nature of the story (as written!), the opera has always been more popular in Italy than elsewhere. I hope that you, gentle reader, will not be discouraged by the abysmal staging and will "take the plunge" and enjoy this (musically, and in some cases dramatically) "splendid work". It may well be the only version forthcoming this bicentennial year.
The two big stars of the production are the male singers and the conductor. Lopez Linares was right on in his declamation of the part of Rolando. His voice was rich and well focused. He never wavered in his vocal production or tired. He was believable in his intonation and his projection was accurate. A delight to listen to.
Andrew Richards is new to me but I hope to hear more. He was excellent as he projected the heroic figure of Arrigo. His vocal production was mostly quite accurate; he is tall and handsome and should have a good career. The small part of Barbarossa was well managed by Enrico G. Iori and one wished to hear more of that rich, resonate voice. The conductor Boris Bott was not heavy handed but kept everything moving at a good pace and under firm control. The quality of the orchestra and particularly the solo passages was most gratifying. and from the brief views, the Trieste Opera House is a handsome building.
I wish I could avoid comment on the stage direction since there wasn't any. It was close to chaos in the chorus and the sets. No direction, just aimless milling around. I just didn't look at them or the scattered mess over the stage floor. The whole thing was simply silly; the regie should be fired (Cappuccio and Savi) Whatever point they were trying to make was simply lost and one avoided looking at anything but the singers. I took off only one star for this ill-conceived mess.