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Verdi: Jerusalem

Villarroel, Colombara, Fondary, Momirov, etc
Orchestra & Ballet of Teatro Carlo Felice, Genova/Michel Plasson
Direction Ermanno Olmi & Piergiogio Gay

TDK DVOPJER [166 mins, in French with multi-lingual subtitles]

Once you get into the spirit of this farrago about "The Lombards on their First Crusade" there is a lot to enjoy in this production from a provincial Italian city, rapturously received by the audience at this televised live performance in November 2000. It is a recomposition for Paris of I Lombardi with new material and the obligatory ballet. This performance has claims to authenticity, being based on Verdi's Paris autograph.

There is a winning sincerity in the performances of the principals which comes through, especially that of Veronica Villarroel as the hapless heroine, who holds attention and growing to respect and admiration. No famous names, but a generally good standard of singing throughout, underpinned by the distinguished conducting of Michel Plasson. I enjoyed following the generally uncomplicated French - but the subtitles have the too common redundancy, by repeating each phrase, however obvious, again and again.

The direction is under the auspices of important film directors, who grasp the opportunity for a riot of colourful costumes and over-the-top kitsch in the harem scene, its ballet risible.They seem less interested in directing movement, and the prevailing acting style relies unashamedly on stock gestures in the "stand and deliver" tradition. "Wide screen in the opera!"

No possibility here to summarise the twists and turns of the story, with a hero falsely accused of murder, exiled and eventually saved in the nick of time by the remorseful villain who has become a penitent monk, etc etc.

What holds you is the succession of gorgeous arias and the substantial contribution of the chorus, who sing lustily whilst mostly standing stiffly as if impervious to the great events in which they are participating. It is a useful reminder of old-time opera traditions before the 'concept' directors took over.

Definitely one to collect, but don't show this DVD to sceptical younger people whom you might want to encourage to give opera a try!

© peter grahame woolf 2003

© Peter Grahame Woolf