We take a look at Verdi’s powerful tragedy.
In the video below, opera expert Alexandra Coghlan meets soprano Mané Galoyan to discuss the complexities of the title character, and hears from Chorus Director Aidan Oliver about the opera’s unusually prominent choral moments.
So sit back and take five minutes to fall in love with Luisa Miller…
A brief introduction
Luisa Miller (1849) is a watershed work, bringing to a close Verdi’s apprentice years – rushing from project to project, always racing a deadline – and beginning a new phase of artistic maturity. Gone are the grandiose musical gestures and set-pieces, the exotic locations, kings and princes of the early operas; in their place we get an intimate domestic drama charged with human detail, psychological interest and emotion.
Country girl Luisa has fallen in love with mysterious stranger ‘Carlo’. But when it is revealed that he is actually Rodolfo, the son of Count Walter, their happiness is cut cruelly short.
‘A brief drama of interest, action, and above all of feeling…’ is what Verdi wanted to create with his adaptation of Schiller’s play, and he succeeds. The opera is the natural precursor to famous middle-period operas Rigoletto, La traviata and Il trovatore that follow immediately after it – a dramatic close-up that explores romantic love and jealousy, as well as the charged, often destructive relationships between parents and children.
Why not to miss this production
This is the first time that Glyndebourne has staged Verdi’s tragedy and the timing couldn’t be more prescient. Luisa Miller was premiered just months after Europe’s ‘Year of Revolutions’. This was a time of unprecedented upheaval and change across the continent, as populations rose up to question power-structures and political systems, to ask for new voices to be heard and new status for the weak and marginalised. This is an opera that makes a powerful statement about class conflict and prejudice, and feels ripe for return in 2021.
It also offers one of the season’s greatest vocal showcases, both for its soloists and for the Glyndebourne Chorus. From peasant dances to courtly intrigue and hunting songs, grand finales to intimate love-scenes, it’s all here in music that anticipates so much to come in La traviata and Rigoletto.
A great moment to look out for
A favourite with tenors in the concert-hall, Rodolfo’s Act II aria ‘Quando le sere al placido’ is a big, juicy vocal showpiece that anticipates all that’s soon to follow in La traviata and Rigoletto.
Having just read Luisa’s false letter, telling him that she never truly loved him, Rodolfo pours out his heart in one of Verdi’s most glorious, noble melodies. The long, legato vocal line is unexpectedly calm and even – it’s even in the major not the minor – despite the anguish of the situation, and is supported by rippling orchestral accompaniment, dominated by the opera’s ever-present clarinet. The melody is repeated twice with – unusually – no contrasting section, but markings encourage greater intensity with each repetition, creating a sense of single-minded, escalating obsession. Revealingly, the aria is marked ‘appassionatissimo’ – as passionately as possible.
Cast and creative team
Distinguished German director Christof Loy returns to Glyndebourne to direct the Festival’s first ever production of this domestic tragedy, conducted by Verdi specialist Enrique Mazzola. Armenian soprano Mané Galoyan (an ’emotionally intense’ and ‘touching’ Violetta for the Glyndebourne Tour in 2018) sings the title role, with Belarussian baritone Vladislav Sulimsky as her father, Miller.
Celebrated American tenor Charles Castronovo (‘ardent’ and ‘persuasive’ in the Royal Opera’s 2020 La bohème) makes his role debut as Rodolfo. Rising young Polish bass Krzysztof Bączyk sings the villainous Wurm, with Russian bass Evgeny Stavinsky as Count Walter.
Conductor Enrique Mazzola, photo by Richard Hubert Smith / Mané Galoyan, photo by Simon Pauly
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Sponsored by The Winrocc Charitable Settlement and supported by the Bischoff family, in memory of Lady Rosemary Bischoff
Image credits: Images © Tom Hammick. All rights reserved, DACS 2021