I got to Luisa Miller a second time, in a cheap seat ($44).
Second half I moved to an empty house seat next to someone who sang in the first ever season of the AETT Opera (precursor to Opera Australia).
In retrospect the orchestral sound was much better in the cheap seat. The drama of the last acts was probably the better for a front-on view.
The work as a whole continues to bemuse. Admittedly, the libretto is probably a botched job and the adaptation of Schiller a butchering, but the disavowal in this production of the Tyrolean element has robbed it of a picturesque foil to the melodrama which we plunge into from the finale of the first act onwards.
It is not as if the Tyrolean element was merely trivial – it infuses the yodelling wind writing (it is not only the clarinettist at Naples who must have been quite impressive) as well as the more obvious hunting call-and-answer chorus. Without it, the drama when it comes seems more abruptly contrived than I think it would otherwise.
At least I got the “flashback” element this time: at the start Luisa is laid out as in a (rather Ophelian) bier.
My neighbour in the second half invoked the memory of good old “Joe Green.” That’s an old joke (of sorts). We both found the Count’s ongoing business with a cigarette rather laughable (the modern code seems to be: smoking is the sign of a baddie, though to be fair the first cigarette is lit up to allay anxiety and, as we learn, guilt). It was at this point, when my neighbour told a tale about lighting up as the Count in Figaro in Wolverhampton immediately after the audience had been told not to smoke, that I was finally sure who he was – I didn’t want to say “pleased to meat you Mr Allman” (or something similar) and spoil it with the wrong name. (Not that I would have mistaken him for the late Robert Allman, who was often to be spotted in the audience after he stopped performing.)
My neighbour had never seen Luisa Miller before. I doubt if I ever will, on stage at least. Perhaps it is a work best savoured for its prefigurings – lots of ur- Traviata and Rigoletto, in particular. Still I’m very glad I’m saw it and can use my memories of seeing it when (as I certainly shall) I listen to it or watch it on screen in the future.
Daniel Sumegi’s leering at the distraught Luisa again evoked momentary hilarity, though this time Mr Licata forbore to glare.
The singing was again impressive. For my money the star turns were Dalibor Jenis as Miller and Diego Torres as Rodolfo, with a particularly fine rendition by DT of the one really famous aria from this opera. Sometimes Diego gets a bit of a rasp in his voice but it had settled down compared to my first attendance.
One peculiarity of the opera is an unaccompanied quartet at the end of Act II scene ii (eg here at 1 hour 26 minutes in). It is really more of a solo for Luisa with an oddly-voiced accompanying trio of the (contralto) duchess -Rodolfo’s betrothed – and the two bass baddies, Walter and Wurm. At the end, the orchestra comes in to bring the curtain down, which is a kind of test: have they stayed in tune? They did both times, but I found it almost impossible to feel or follow the harmony whilst they were on their way there. It’s something about how singers with big produced voices sing together which is a mystery to me.