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Giuseppe Verdi: I vespri siciliani
Daniela Dessì (Elena), Fabio Armiliato (Arrigo), Leo Nucci (Monforte), Giacomo Prestia (Procida), Adriana Di Paola (Ninetta), Dario Russo (Bethune), Andrea Mastroni (Count Vaudemont), Raoul d'Eramo (Danieli), Roberto Jachini Virgili (Tebaldo), Alessandro Battiato (Roberto), Camillo Facchino (Manfredo), Coro del Teatro Regio di Parma, Martino Faggiani (Chorus Master), Orchestra del Teatro Regio di Parma, Massimo Zanetti (Conductor), Pier Luigi Pizzi (Stage, Set and Costume Designer), Vincenzo Raponi (Lighting Designer), Roberto Maria Pizzuto (Choreographer), Tiziano Mancini (Video Director)
Recorded live at the Teatro Regio di Parma, Italy (October 13 and 17, 2010) – 181’ (including bonus introduction)
C Major Entertainment # 723808 (distributed by Naxos of America) – Booklet in English, German, French and Italian – Subtitles available in Italian, English, German, French, Spanish, Chinese, Korean and Japanese

Having completed his first French grand opera, Jérusalem in 1847, Giuseppe Verdi returned to Paris to create a second composition with Eugène Scribe as librettist. Verdi was intrigued with this fashionable genre at the time, one capitalized by Giacomo Meyerbeer, but he wanted to create his own indelible Italian stamp. In I vespri siciliani the French are painted as the evil enemy; nonetheless, Parisians welcomed the production which premiered on June 13, 1855. Strikingly, Verdi decided to explore a new form of musical style in ways he had never done up to this point.

Pier Luigi Pizzi’s staging is minimally opulent, and it works. If the Parma audience felt a greater connection with this opera, there’s good reason: choral and principal members walk and sing in the aisles, approach and withdraw from the stage by means of two staircases in the wings. It’s almost a diluted derivation of a “theatre-in-the-round.” Roberto Maria Pizzuto's choreographic technique is imaginary, artistic yet devoid of excesses.

Black, the predominant color (with exception of young Sicilian girls and Elena’s white wedding dress), is monochromatic yet indicatively appropriate for this subject matter. Dessì looks ravishing when bathed in Vincenzo Raponi's lighting during the opening of Act V.

Daniela Dessì has a great smoky, sullen voice well poised to create dramatic tension amongst friends and foes. Fabio Armiliato has a demonstrative spike in his declamations, and the "Grand Duet" with Elena is simply grand. Giacomo Prestia brims with full bodied resonance while Leo Nucci creates a French dictate in the role of Monforte.

This I vespri siciliani is well supported by Martino Faggiani's chorus. The scenery is pared down to a handful of props, allowing cleaner lines to principals and the action behind the story.

Christie Grimstad




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