Giuseppe Verdi: Il corsaro
Bruno Ribeiro (Corrado), Silvia Dalla Benetta (Gulnara), Irina Lungu (Medora), Luca Salsi (Seid), Andrea Papi (Giovanni), Gregory Bonfatti (Selimo), Angelo Villari (A eunuch), Coro del Teatro Regio di Parma, Martino Faggiani (Chorus Master), Orchestra del Teatro Regio di Parma, Carlo Montanaro (Conductor), Lamberto Puggelli (Stage Director), Marco Capuana (Set Designer), Vera Marzot (Costume Designer), Andrea Borelli (Lighting Designer), Tiziano Mancini (Video Director)
Recorded live at the Teatro Regio di Parma, Parma, Italy (October 19 and 21, 2008) – 119’ (including bonus introduction)
C Major Entertainment # 722408 (distributed by Naxos of America) – Booklet in English, German, French and Italian – Subtitles available in Italian, English, German, French, Spanish, Chinese, Korean and Japanese
Saddled between Verdi’s first French grand opera Jérusalem (a massaged I lombardi alla prima croaciata) and the politically doomed La battaglia di Legnano, one finds the oft forgotten work of Il corsaro. Based on Lord Byron’s poem, The Corsair, this melodramma tragico has stylistic reminiscences of Macbeth and I masnadieri (Read here) but with less boldness and gusto. Il corsaro doesn’t come close to “topping the charts”, but this production, under the direction of Lamberto Puggelli, does a credible job in creating an energy that slowly gains momentum, giving the opera a merited spot in the operatic canon.
Within the diminutive Teatro Regio di Parma Marco Capuana’s simple staging uses an abbreviated ship deck featuring three masts acting as conduits to raise and drop three sails. Lighting by Andrea Borelli is meaningful with a special Caravaggio-like chiaroscuro that sets upon Corrado during his “Eccomi prigioniero!” in Act III.
The brevity of Act I opens with I masnadieri-like chorus and continues with Irina Lungu in the role of Medora who sings her Fate Aria, “Non so le tetre immagini”, in a richly hued manner. Soon to follow is the duet with Corrado featuring the melodious timbre of tenor Bruno Ribeiro. The voices mesh well, but the acting at this point is too instructional with no sincere emotional connect between the two; both are more concerned with cueing from Carlo Montanaro than enveloping their love.
Silvia Dalla Benetta changes everything, providing a spark plug that kicks Il corsaro into full gear. We first hear her buttery voice unfold during her beautiful cavatina, “Vola talor dal carcere” set against Montanaro’s beautiful woodwind section. As the plot unfolds, Dalla Benetta pulsates with tension amongst the powerful baritone register of Luca Salsi as the Pasha Seid, and she brings the entire opera to a conclusive, confident climax by singing a D-flat one octave higher than originally scored. Her voice never struggles, and for that matter, none of the principals shows any aberrant strain within their registers. This is to be heavily commended.
Though Il corsaro doesn’t drive with such immensity and intensity as in other Verdi operas, it still has several memorable and melodious passages. This rare recording moves away from the Verdian staples and captures Lord Byron’s poem in a convincing and memorable musical construct.