This tragicomedy was apparently the greatest success of Giovanni Paisiello’s career, some claim considering that he wrote around 90 operas and that his Barbiere di Siviglia both inspired Mozart to produce Le nozze di Figaro as a sequel and caused later audiences to criticise Rossini for daring to tackle the same subject. Although Paisiello (1740-1816) is interesting enough to deserve some attention today, his musical accomplishments are more reminiscent of Cimarosa than anyone else. He did, however, enjoy a colourful life, and served European rulers as diverse as Catherine the Great and Napoleon. When Nina was first performed at La Scala, the title role was taken by none other than Floria Tosca, the singer who was later to inspire Sardou and Puccini.
This is a wonderful performance, one of the finest in this Tutto Verdi series of the complete operas. Conductor Gianluigi Gelmetti is an unlikely looking gentleman at first glance but at his first wave of the baton one realizes he is a master. His upbeat tempi have a big sweep that gives the opera the brilliance Verdi intended. The tenor, Francesco Meli (Riccardo), is a young fresh voice, powerful and sensitive; the baritone, Vladimir Stoyanov is beginning to take over from the venerable Nucci in the series. His voice is powerful, well shaded, his acting puts a menace into his Renato and we commiserate with his agony of being a betrayed husband. Serena Gamberoni’s Oscar is a delight—a stunning beauty, her voice supple and flexible, she moves like a real opera star! An American from Arkansas, Kristin Lewis is a passionate Amelia with power, secure in her top notes. Elisabetta Fiorillo (Ulrica), an old-timer now with an alto range, makes a strong impression as the wise and not at all wicked soothsayer. (The WholeNote)
…this is…a very attractive production. The sets and costumes are in period and completely traditional and tasteful. The stage action is thoroughly sensible and in accord with the libretto, and the acting by all the principals quite decent. Among the four lead singers, the standout is Silvia Dalla Genetta as Gulnara. Let’s hope that the exposure she receives here launches her on a major international career, for this is a world-class voice—a dramatic coloratura with a rapid but perfectly even vibrato; rich, penetrating vocal color devoid of shrillness on top; excellent breath control, including some marvelous soft singing; spot-on intonation; and an ability to handle wide intervallic leaps with aplomb. As Medora, Irina Lungu[’s]…coloratura technique is sound, and overall she sings creditably…Bruno Ribeiro is…a major asset as Corrado…he is…a fine singer…with a secure top and real interpretive temperament. In the role of Seid, Luca Salsi brings an extremely potent bass voice to bear, and is quite the formidable villain. (Fanfare)
Nabucco was Verdi’s third work for the stage and proved his first great success when performed in 1842. It deals with the Hebrew’s attempts to break free from the yoke of their Babylonian oppressors and is nowadays numbered among Verdi’s most popular works, not least on account of its famous Chorus of Hebrew Slaves, which has one of the best-loved melodies in the whole history of opera.)
Stiffelio was based on the play Le pasteur, ou L'évangile et le foyer by Émile Souvestre and Eugène Bourgeois and was originally censored due to it involving as it does a Protestant minister of the church with an adulterous wife.
The golden timbre of Roberto Aronica graces the title role…His commanding tenor makes one sit up and listen, with some notable long-breathed phrasing and a smooth legato a joy to hear…[Yu Guanqun's] is a rich, true lyric soprano with a glint of steel and strong, even emission in the upper register…[Frontali] sings with great command of Verdian shape and line. (International Record Review)
I Lombardi alla prima crociata was Verdi’s fourth opera and received its first performance at La Scala, Milan, in February 1843. The grandiloquent subject matter is fleshed-out with broad-brushed musical and dramatic effects and lavish choral scenes created a correspondingly impressive impact. A great success in Milan, it spread to the rest of Europe within a matter of only a few years.
I due Foscari was Verdi’s sixth opera and based on Lord Byron’s play The Two Foscari. Rich in intrigue, the plot tells of the final days of the famous Venetian doge, Francesco Foscari, and his illegal overthrow in 1457.
Lee’s production of I due Foscari, set against a simple curved backdrop and beautifully costumed, works best on screen…with Nucci giving a baritonal masterclass in the title role, Tatiana Serjan pouring out exciting (if veiled) tone as Lucrezia, and De Biasio enjoying a success as Jacopo. (Opera Now)
Il Trovatore was based on the play El Trovador by Antonio García Gutiérrez and was an instant success. The cast is here led by Marcelo Alvarez, Norma Fantini and Leo Nucci and is conducted by Yuri Temirkanov.
Large symbols…make an effective home for a serious Il Trovatore, precisely paced and balanced by Yuri Temirkanov…Especially notable is his handling of what one might term 'old' Verdi orchestral tricks (ironic Bellinian wind counterpoints of parodistic military brass). The casting here is led by a Manrico from Marcelo Alvarez worthy of vocal and dramatic attention. (Gramophone Magazine)
The singing and musicianship here is of a high standard and Zanetti conducts with verve…Certain aspects of Pier Luigi Pizzi’s production are good while others are somewhat disappointing. (MusicWeb International)