One of the world`s leading stage directors, Nikolaus Lehnhoff has presented an outstanding new production of Giuseppe Verdi's popular opera Rigoletto. With international stars like Juan Diego Flórez and Diana Damrau and directed by the new chief conductor Fabio Luisi, this opera production demonstrates a convincing and highly qualified musical standard. A wonderfully timeless event, which took place in the marvellous atmosphere of Dresden’s Semperoper.
Opera in three acts by Giuseppe Verdi
Gentlemen of the Dresden State Opera Chorus
Conductor | Fabio Luisi
Stage director | Nikolaus Lehnhoff
Chorus Director | Ulrich Paetzholdt
The Duke of Mantua | Juan Diego Flórez
Rigoletto | Zeljko Lucic
Gilda | Diana Damrau
Sparafucile | Georg Zeppenfeld
“Va pensiero,” the famous chorus from Verdi’s Nabucco is often cited as an official national anthem for Italy and proved as much throughout the Risorgimento when the country is battling for its independence from the Austrian.
The choral passage, with its nostalgia for a home lost, was truly emotional and established. Verdi as an composer of the revolutionary movement. So it is no surprise that at the same point, some production of Verdi’s Nabucco would be set, not in Babylon, as the libretto originally notes, but during the era where the Hebrews, seeking independence, would be portrayed as Italians and Nabucco and his oppressive babylonians would be Austrian Empire.
In the midst of the Bicentennial and 20th anniversary celebrations, the Teatro Real revived one of its most monumental and emblematic productions of its recent history: Aida, by Giuseppe Verdi. It premiered in 1998 with the staging, scenography, and costumes by Hugo de Ana. Now we will see a restored and updated version of one of the most popular operas by the composer from Busseto.
Under the baton of Nicola Luisotti, principal guest musical director of the Teatro Real and Prize for the Best Musical Director Opera XXI for Turandot at Teatro Real.
One of the most popular in all opera repertoire: Il Trovatore. In a new production of the Teatro Real, Maurizio Benini conducts two casts of renowned Verdi stars: Ludovic Tézier, Maria Agresta, Ekaterina Semenchuk, Francesco Meli and Roberto Tagliavini, among many others. The complicated story, based on the play by Antonio García Gutiérrez, is told here in a big production by Francisco Negrín, in which he highlights the dramatic and enormous tension in this Verdi masterpiece.
From the impenetrable – and often delirious plot of Il trovatore, the aspect that without a shadow of a doubt most attracted Giuseppe Verdi was the profound vital contradiction in which Azucenafinds herself immersed, as filled with love for her son as full of hate for her mother. At all cost, the musician looked for a way to reveal the overflowing passions of this woman, and as such he defended it to his librettist, reaching the extreme of suggesting that they abandon the story if he was not convinced (as an alternative, he proposed focusing on a section of the plot which would end in an ‘illumination’ as in La Traviata). It was not necessary. The opera was developed over three years of frenetic musical activity and serious personal problems, but Verdi achieved what he was looking for. With an almost rampant termperament and an overpowering impetus, Il trovatoreoverflows with dramatic tension and musical geniality, resulting in a story of love and revenge which increases in intensity throughout, irrepressible, leading to the final catastrophe. From the very moment of its première, the opera increased in popularity, and now over a century and a half later, it continues to be a resounding height of opera repertory
After its initial rejection, Verdi’s unique opera, whose action unfolds in a contemporary setting, La traviata, based on Alexandre Dumas’ The Lady of the Camellias, became one of the most acclaimed works of the composer. This came about because of the universal values that are brought to light following the tragedy of a high-society courtesan -another of those left in the wake of the history of opera- who renounces even life itself to protect the honour of her lover, demonstrating with her self-sacrifice a grandeur lacking in the hypocritical bourgeois society that abused and then rejected her.
A story that brought Verdi legendary status through music with a profound sense of humanity and psychological portrayal of the characters and their feelings. Behind the outward show of luxury and frivolous pleasure, the “populous desert they call Paris” hides the stark cruelty of a social class for whom everything can be bought and sold. With this backdrop of bitter transience, only Violetta stands as a classic heroine, whose sacrifice transcends love and death. These two themes that the opera revolves around are also brought to life by the staging of David McVicar, who, with his usual elegance, sets the drama in a world of romantic references while retaining an up-to-date perspective.
Three of the greatest operas of Giuseppe Verdi were inspired by the admiration he felt towards the genius of William Shakespeare: Macbeth, Otello and Falstaff, his final opera and second comedy. It is an ideal work, teaching us to take life lightly and laugh at ourselves, and it comes to the Teatro Real in a new production by the talented master in humor, Laurent Pelly. His most recent productions on this stage have been: La Fille du régiment, Hänsel und Greteland The Golden Cockerel. Daniele Rustioni conducts two markedly Spanish casts, together with the house Chorus and Orchestra.
In September 2008 the Neapolitan stage and screen director, Mario Martone, changed the setting of this opera from the late 17th to the 19th century. He believed that Verdi’s story of passion and political rivalry was better suited to the composer’s own era. In this opera, Verdi breaks free from the strict forms of arias and duets, creating larger ensembles with a more fluid and wide-ranging musical discourse. At the same time, he skilfully uses the conventional forms and styles which were the legacy of French comic opera (the character of Oscar) and of grand opera, connecting them to the tradition of Italian opera.
Verdi’s enormous talent for creating well-rounded characters, his keen sense of drama and endless musical inspiration are all on display in this work, in which he skilfully balances drama and comedy, large ensembles and intimate moments, the bustle of the court and the inner dramas of the protagonists. Loyalty, treachery and passion are the three fundamental elements of Un ballo in maschera. Each one has its own theme which we hear in the overture. Passion, however, is the over-riding sentiment of the dramatic final scenes.
Gabrielle D’Annunzio said that Un ballo in maschera was “the most melodramatic of all operas”.
Based on Schiller’s Kabale und Liebe (Intrigue and Love), Verdi’s tragic melodrama Luisa Miller revolves around the loves of the heroine of the title and Rodolfo, son of Count Walter, and the machinations of the Count’s steward, Wurm, who wants Luisa for himself, resulting in the death of all three. Directed by Arnaud Bernard, who took as his inspiration Bernardo Bertolucci’s 1976 film 1900, this La Fenice production is led by the outstanding Bulgarian soprano Darina Takova whose intense characterization of Luisa emphasizes the heroine’s inner torture, and Giuseppe Sabbatini who brings a thrilling theatricality to the rôle of Rodolfo, especially in the most famous aria from the opera, "Quando le sere al placido".
With the collaboration of Naxos.
David Alden approaches the setting of Othello from the point of view of Giuseppe Verdi’s adaptation of the Shakespeare text. In the first act of the play, which Verdi omits, we see the great love of Desdemona, a young, beautiful woman of the Venetian upper class, for the rough-mannered and hot-tempered foreign soldier Othello. Her father, the patrician Brabantio, opposes their love. In the first act he asks how his daughter could have chosen to “run from her guardage to the sooty bosom of such a thing as thou, to fear, not to delight.”
Desdemona’s love for Otello is even thought to be a thing of magic. In contrast, Otello’s love for Desdemona is perfectly logical: Desdemona is so refined, so white, so aristocratic and so devout that anyone could understand why Otello would fall in love with her. They love each other, but their difference in social standing is undeniable. And these differences will be how the resentful, devilish Lieutenant Iago is able to wreak his vengeance on his General, Otello, for not promoting him to Captain as he had hoped.
This vengeance requires a minimum of effort, because all he really has to do is convince Otello of what everyone else already believes: such a gentlewoman could never really love someone like him. Consequently, it is very easy for him to make Otello believe that Desdemona has fallen in love with a man of her own rank, Cassio, whom Iago describes as the antithesis of Othello. And so, despite Otello’s noble soul - even though Desdemona truly loves him, even though Cassio is loyal and honourable -, Iago’s insinuations take root and Otello believes that Desdemona is unfaithful to him.
In the play, Shakespeare explains the action through the theme of racism, this is the driving force of the tragedy. But both the librettist, Arrigo Boito, and Verdi understood that the drama could be even more intense if racism played a less prominent part. The focus was put on the fragility of a character who physically differs little from any of the others; a vulnerable character who is dominated by inner turmoil. Thus Verdi reduces racism to a marginal issue which is scarcely mentioned. David Alden takes a similar approach: Otello is an outsider; he is “other” because that is how he feels inside. He need not be black or physically different from the other characters.
His conflict is internal: insecurity, that which has led so many men to commit the worst atrocities. We watch with horrified fascination the tragic disintegration of the hero, locked into the destructive cycle of destiny. The set design suggests a courtyard in Cyprus, but above all, this is a militarised, brutal world with dehumanised soldiers in a war which prevents them from responding to love or tenderness. In this context, Otello brings us face-to-face with one of the most secret human fears: to not feel worthy of what one loves most.
Renato Palumbo, who has conducted Les Huguenots, Tosca and La Traviata at the Real, returns with another Verdi classic with the Albanian soprano Ermonela Jaho, much acclaimed for her performance in La Traviata in 2014. She is accompanied by tenor Gregory Kunde, whose interpretation of the difficult role of Otello is one of the most highly regarded. He also opened the 2016 season at the Teatro Real to great applause for his Roberto Devereux. Alongside them as the cruel and crafty Iago is baritone George Petean, who brought the 2016 season to a close in the opera I puritani.