I love opera and Verdi, and would try to see any production I can get my hands on. I Vespri Siciliani was quite an interesting surprise. True, it is not among Verdi's best work from that era unlike Rigoletto, Il Trovatore and my favourite La Traviata, it is overlong, is not as consistent as some of Verdi's other work and the narrative can get overwrought in places.
However, the opera does contain one of Verdi's best and most stirring overtures, while not particularly memorable I do believe in the characters especially the grizzled Guy De Montforte and Arrigo is the one that goes on a journey finding that the man he hates is actually his father, and there is some great music with O Tu Palermo, Merce Dilette Amiche, Coraggio Su Coraggio, Giorno Di Pianto and In Bracchio Alle Douvizie standing out.
This La Scala production is outstanding helped hugely by Riccardo Muti's conducting which is delicate and passionate. The ballet sequence shows this perfectly, I can understand why those mayn't like it so much, but I for one can't get enough of the music or the clever and intricate choreography. The costumes are beautifully tailored and mostly accurate to the setting and the sets are big and appealing.
The performances are excellent, Chris Merritt sings beautifully and is decent as Arrigo but not as good at commanding the stage as much as the rest of the cast. Ferruccio Furlanetto is a compelling Procida with a rich voice and Cheryl Studer is a most excellent Elena, conversely it is the superb performance of Giorgio Zancanaro as Montforte that proves to be the most consistent.
Overall, outstanding production of an imperfect but underrated opera. I also recommend the 1973 RCA Victor Broadcast with Arroyo, Domingo, Milnes and Raimondi. 9/10 Bethany Cox
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