As I explained in my review of Un Ballo in Maschera (1975), Mrs G is at a conference in Belfast this week so I had the unusual luxury of watching two productions of this opera on consecutive nights. They just happen to be the earliest and latest of the six versions that are listed by IMDb. Pavarotti has committed it to film three times, Domingo twice and this latest stars Salvatore Licitra as Riccardo.
I was not impressed with the 1975 film and, I am ashamed to say, I put most of the blame on Verdi, suggesting that this was not one of his more inspired works. This 2001 production completely vindicates Verdi. It was so good that I could scarcely believe that I was listening to the same opera. Most of the credit for this goes to the conductor, Riccardo Muti, in an inspired performance that does full justice to Verdi's score. This production also shows that the version finally sanctioned by Verdi, with the action set in colonial Boston, works perfectly satisfactorily. It is not necessary to re-set it in 18th century Sweden, as do most modern productions, in order to make it work. So, instead of Ulrica the Gypsy, we get Ulrica the voodoo queen, played with bloodcurdling effect by Mariana Pentecheva.
This is an excellent-looking production from La Scala, Milan. Although the plot and the characters' motivation are implausible, the skill and pace of the production enabled me to suspend disbelief. Maria Guleghina is a considerable asset as Amelia. Salvatore Licitra is no Domingo, in fact he is more like the Duane Doberman of operatic tenors but he acquits himself well in this first-rate production.
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