I Lombardi isn't among my favourites of Verdi's operas. The music is absolutely fine, especially the Gerusalemme chorus and the Act 3 violin prelude, but libretto-wise it is one of his weakest, often confusing-more so than Il Trovatore-, absurd(Oronte converting from Muslin to Christian so he can go to heaven is a point in the opera that I have never been able to believe in) and also a bit of a bore sometimes. It has been said that it can be interesting when the performance of it in question is committed and very well-performed, and that is exactly what this production is. The 1984 La Scala production is great also, apart from the strained Arvino, and perhaps more atmospheric, but this performance proved itself more than worthy. Maybe it is not quite perfect, the video projections are distracting at times and Michele Pertusi's make-up and beard are rather amateurish. However, any nit-picky problems are far outweighed by the many good things here.
There may not be the most beautiful sets and costumes I've ever seen for an opera production(I've come to expect that from Teatro Regio Di Parma actually), but they are far from ugly either and don't prove themselves a liability either. The stage directing deserves credit for making the story more interesting than it actually is, which is not an easy feat, and with the full emotional impact. Musically, the production is just great. The orchestra play with a beautiful sound with every ounce of the score's emotional complexity, while the chorus are rousing and the conducting equally authoritative and sympathetic. The performances are truly excellent, with Michele Pertusi's richly sung and affectingly characterised Pagano a revelation. Dimitra Theodossiou had moments of harshness and too wide vibrato, but as Giselda- the role that ties the opera together in a way- she sings with command of her music and with beautiful pianissimos and very committed acting. Francesco Meli's Oronte is wonderfully sing with ringing tone, and he is hardly a slouch as an actor either. And Roberto DeBiasio is equally fine in the somewhat restricted part of Arvino, a significant improvement over the tenor in the La Scala production.
In conclusion, the opera is not among Verdi's very finest hours but this production due to wonderful singing and commitment does a great job bringing it to life. 9/10 Bethany Cox
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