Gustav Kuhn, cond; Junko Saito (
); Ferdinand von Bothmer (
); Thomas Gazheli (
); Francesco Facini (
); Yasushi Hirano (
); Joshua Lindsay (
); Anna Lucia Nardi (
); Haydn O of Bolzano & Trento; Dobbiaco Istituto Corale & Orchestrale
C MAJOR 721504 (Blu-ray: 107: 00 opera + 10:00 bonus) Live: Dobbiaco 2012
It was my understanding, perhaps erroneous, that the organizations associated with the Tutto Verdi project were tasked with staging and filming all of Giuseppe Verdi’s operas and the Requiem in high resolution Blu-ray (it reads “in definitive performances” on the blurb on the box). If so, they have copped out here, or perhaps run out of money, for this is a concert performance, certainly not definitive, of Verdi’s
from the Grand Hotel Centro Culturale, Dobbiaco in the South Tyrol, recorded live in September 2012. Yes, the characters attempt to interact, getting up from their chairs as the score dictates and coming to center stage to sing to one another, but they look a bit foolish, the men dressed in tuxedos, the women in colorful formal dresses. To call this a staged production would certainly be entirely misleading, there are no sets, no costumes, the orchestra is fully visible on stage, as is the chorus behind, dressed in formal wear and all singing with score in hand. The principal singers, to their credit, all seem to have memorized parts they will probably never be asked to sing again. This type of treatment is particularly puzzling since the Teatro Regio di Parma, around which the project seems to center, presented a fully staged version of
as recently as 1991 (newly made available on the VAI video label).
The opera itself, not one of Verdi’s great successes, centers on a love triangle between an Incan princess (soprano), an Incan tribal leader (tenor), and the Spanish conquistador ruler (baritone) who also desires the girl. Here, we get a very fine singing performance from the German tenor, Ferdinand von Bothmer in the role of Zamoro, the Incan tribal leader who apparently keeps losing battles to the Spaniards. Bothmer, with whom I was not previously familiar, produces a fine, rich tone, sings on key, and has plenty of ringing top notes. The Tutto Verdi decision makers would have done well to use the young German tenor in more roles in this series. There is less to like in the singing of soprano Junko Saito and baritone Thomas Gazheli. Actually, Saito is currently billed as a mezzo-soprano and Gazheli as a Heldentenor, perhaps miscasting is part of the problem here. Both produce some less than beautiful sounds, although Saito sings on key and turns in a workmanlike performance, if a bit shrieky at times. Gazheli seems to be forcing his voice, his singing sounds effortful and at times particularly strangulated. The smaller roles are sung competently enough and the fine playing of the Orchestra Haydn di Bolzano e Trento under the deft leadership of conductor Gustav Kuhn helps redeem some of the musical value on this set. The chorus is musically excellent as well. Sound recording is exceptional in both stereo and surround formats, the acoustics of the small hall more vividly experienced in the Dolby surround sound. The picture, also quite sharp in Blu-ray format, is largely wasted with so little to see.
I have not seen the VAI video from 1991, but I understand there are some vocal issues there as well. The few audio only recordings with which this concert performance will be forced to compete all have better singing casts in at least two of the three primary roles. As with the other Tutto Verdi sets, there is about a 10 minute Introduction to
also on the disc. This set may be a desirable acquisition for some just because of the sheer rarity of this opera, but you are forewarned, it is a concert performance which holds very little interest for me.