I have said before that La Gioconda due to its somewhat convoluted story is not a favourite, but Ponchielli's music especially Cielo e Mar, Dance of the Hours and Suicido is so good. As far as productions of this opera goes I'd put the 1979 television film over this 1988 performance, but this is superior to the ones from 1986 and 2005.
The sets are quite minimalist but effective, especially in the first act. The costumes are sumptuous with Cossotto as Laura looking ravishing. Sound is very good, picture quality occasionally a little fuzzy. The orchestra play beautifully and the conducting shows musicality and authority.
Of the staging, it is the nimbly choreographed Dance of the Hours that impressed most. Suicido and the duet between Enzo and Barnaba are also good.
Principal singing is very good mostly. Grace Bumbry is riveting dramatically as Gioconda, and even with a few intonation problems has presence vocally. I love in her duet with Cossotto her facial expression at the end as if "why didn't you hold the note longer"? Fiorenza Cossotto does show a gift for acting and makes Laura more interesting than she is really. Her voice is not quite as beautiful as it was in the 60s-70s, with some forced high notes, but it is still sizeable and impressive in range.
Ivo Vinco is a powerful Alvise and Matteo Manuguerra's Barnaba is wonderfully sinister in characterisation especially in the final scene and his voice for 64 is in good nick. The performance of La Cieca is appropriately moving with her big solo very emotional. Enzo is competent particularly in Cielo e Mar but dramatically he is the least exceptional of the cast, he comes across as too stolid.
All in all, very good with a solid cast. 8/10 Bethany Cox
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