Libretto by Salvatore Cammarano
Directed by Giancarlo del Monaco
Conducted by Andrea Licata
Joan Sutherland Theatre
The Opera House, Bennelong Point
Season (see website for exact performance dates):
Luisa Miller is one of Verdi’s lesser-known operas, arising from an audience push against opera’s narrow repertoire, and for different stories to be told with new music. In spite of resting on familiar operatic tropes, Verdi delivers, producing a terrifically dramatic work. Del Monaco’s direction of the opera emphasises the opera’s themes of love and destiny and the performers sing wonderfully, brimming with emotion.
Admittedly, I took a while to warm up to the show. In three acts, the first act felt rather laboured by setting up plotlines and necessary exposition, underlined by Verdi’s less dynamic composition in this section. I found it difficult to invest emotionally in the action at first, however I think this could be attributed to the need to lay a foundation for the story in the first act so that the stakes could progressively rise throughout the opera. This occurred successfully, reaching its proverbial climax at the end of the work in a splendidly dramatic fashion. The Opera Australia Orchestra, conducted by Andrea Licata, produce a superb sound to underscore the operatic vocal work. Diego Torre gives a strong performance as the protagonist Rodolfo, encompassing the throes of love and jealousy. Raymond Aceto and Daniel Sumego as Walter and Wurm respectively, create an audible audience response to their transpiring evil. Nicole Car gives an exquisite performance, showcasing her gift of a voice and evoking the devastation that prevails when men reduce a woman to an object to be fought over, and determine her fate – a common tragedy indeed.
Luisa Miller is an opera that is fatalistic in its themes, which has been channelled in this show’s production design. William Orlandi’s set design places a set of sculptures, white marble in appearance, at the centre of the stage, setting the scene prior to the beginning of the opera. The scene depicts a happy family life, acting as a prediction of the protagonists’ lives together. Throughout the opera, the marble scene slowly slides until it hangs upside down, presiding over the action on stage. Orlandi’s design is simply exquisite and frames the entire production perfectly – representing the dastardly fate to become the protagonists as their hopes for a blissful life together are uprooted. A rich and glossy black floor reflects the white statues, reinforcing fate’s impenetrable presence. The use of varying raised ramps in three sections of the stage allow for an exploration of status of the character relationships.
Giancarlo del Monaco’s production of Luisa Miller takes the audience on a journey that diverges with one’s hopes and converges with fate. I suppose each person has a different relationship with the notion of ‘destiny’, and yet I imagine that everyone has experienced some form of disillusionment from a life once envisioned. In this sense, anyone can relate to the tale and be carried by Verdi’s simply wondrous music.