Of the three productions I have seen so far of Un Ballo in Maschera(this, 1975 and 1980), this one is my least favourite, though the 1975 production is the least effective when it comes to the end death scene, but it is still very good and solid. The story is an interesting if sometimes implausible one, while not among Verdi's best the music ranges from very good to sublime, the brilliant Eri Tu especially fitting under the latter category.
I can't fault the sets or costumes either, they are spectacular, especially the ballroom and gallows settings. The videography is excellent too with interesting camera angles, and the whole production is efficiently directed by Brian Large. The orchestra do a superb job, and Levine's conducting is as great as ever if rather too slow at times.
The singing is absolutely wonderful, despite a slightly shaky start Luciano Pavarotti's voice soon returns to its freshness and effortless and heroic-sounding tone in the top register, and Aprille Millo, Florence Quiver, Leo Nucci and Harilyn Blackwell also sing superbly. Where the production is let down is in some of the acting, I love his voice, his smile and his personality but I have never been much a fan of Pavarotti's acting and found it basic at times here.
Quiver sounds great, but doesn't quite meet the dramatic assets of her part. Millo fares much better, she is very musical and heartfelt even if she has a tendency to squint a little too much, and Blackwell is suitably lyrical and angelic. Leo Nucci, both in acting and singing is the most consistent of the night, with a strong voice and compelling acting ability, and while Cappuccilli owns the aria for me( Milnes, Merrill and Quillico are also impressive) Nucci's rendition of Eri Tu is wonderful and very powerful.
All in all, a solid production only hampered by some stolid acting. 8/10 Bethany Cox
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