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Verdi Stiffelio
from the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden in 1993
Carreras, Malfitano & Yurisch
ROH Orchestra & Chorus/Edward Downes

Opus Arte DVD OA R 3103D

After a greatly disappointing revival at Covent Garden last year, also directed by Elijah Moshinsky, this TV film of the 1993 production proves very satisfactory.

Carreras, at the time recovering from leukaemia, is wholly convincing in his single minded attitude towards betrayal and adultery, finally softened in his role as pastor, leaving us to hope that his marriage too may survive.

The DVD presentation is non-existent, with no more than a synopsis of the action provided in the black-covered booklet. Perhaps the marketing aim is at Carreras fans and operagoers who are disenchanted by contemporary gimmickry and fashions that come and go, and loyal to Moshinsky's undistracting level headedness.

The settings are greatly enhanced by the probing camera, which often rests stilly upon a character in recit and aria; the decor comes into its own as a commentary on the period action and doctrinal severity of the country community.

Seeing Edward Downes is a reminder of his project to bring to the stage all the Verdi operas. The orchestra contributes powerfully in overture and the drama as it progresses. [Readers of Musical Pointers, strong supporters of Park Lane Group which so enhances London's musical life, will be pleased to glimpse my namesake John Woolf, PLG's master mind, prominently picked out by the cameras whilst he was still playing violin in the ROH orchestra.]

Carreras shows the burden of his responsibilities as they clash with the precarious survival of his marriage and Catherine Malfitano assumes the role of his erring wife, singing with long line phrasing which is never interrupted for visual effect. Gregory Yurisch is disturbingly unbending in holding his corner; we were not far, I felt, from modern day "honour" revenge in comparable situations in some communities today.

We found this Stiffelio one of the most rewarding Verdi DVDs in our collection, and it left us keen to catch up on DVD with the DGG MET production from the same year, starring Domingo and praised enthusiastically by Musical Criticism.

To put in context this Covent Garden premiere, and its later revival, do read also MusicOHM's interview with Elijah Moshinsky (pictured above).

Peter Grahame Woolf