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An enjoyable evening of Verdi

Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts
04/10/2007 -  and April 13, 15, 18, 22, 28, May 3, 5, 9 and 11

Verdi: Luisa Miller

Serena Farnocchia (Luisa), Mikhail Agafonov (Rodolfo), Alexander Marco-Buhrmester (Miller), Larissa Kostyuk (Federica), Burak Bilgili (Count Walter), Philip Ens (Wurm), Virginia Hatfield (Laura), Lawrence Wiliford/Michael Barrett (Peasant)

Jose Maria Condemi (Director), Carmelo Giammello (Set Designer), Andrea Votti (Costume Designer), Thomas C. Hase (Lighting)

Canadian Opera Company Orchestra and Chorus

Richard Bradshaw/Derek Bate (Conductors), Sandra Horst (Chorus Master)

The COC’s Luisa Miller is a solid success.

There’s no sign of the Tyrolean mountains in the handsome unit set, but an atmospheric moody sky makes an eloquent backdrop. The common folk in the opera are costumed in puritanical browns and greys. The only drawback is that all the women look pregnant. The nobility, richly attired in Hapsburgian splendour, seem to have arrived from a lavish production of Don Carlo.

Serena Farnocchia has a few uncomfortable moments with the coloratura of her opening aria, but then gives a winning performance. She excels in projecting a sense of thoughtful, inner probing.

Tenor Mikhail Agafonov is a major surprise. He made no impact at all in Un Ballo in Maschera three seasons ago in the company’s previous venue, the Hummingbird Centre where everything is rendered dim and distant. In this work he displays a sturdy, ringing Italianate tenor. Similarly, the Count Walter, Burak Bilgili, disappeared as Banquo in the dysfunctional production of Macbeth at the other place. He is not the most charismatic performer and is buried in a voluminous costume, but he makes a fine vocal impression - and the two bass voices (the other being the excellent Philip Ens) are nicely contrasted in their duet.

Larissa Kostyuk adds visual glamour and vocal richness.

Alexander Marco-Buhrmester hasn’t the richest Verdi baritone, but his voice is attractive, firm and evenly produced, and he projects a thorough likeableness and decency.

The orchestra and chorus under Richard Bradshaw sound just fine, and the opera’s trickiest musical moment, the fiendish unaccompanied quartet in Act II, is brought off impeccably.

The set comes from the Teatro San Carlo in Naples. One rather cryptic element appears in the final act when a large crucifix appears to have fallen to the stage - perhaps representing the failure of religion to ameliorate the personal and class problems that bring about the tragedy.

All in all, a solid and satisfying evening of Verdi.

Michael Johnson



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