We are privileged to be part of the first night of the new production of Verdi’s little known “Luisa Miller” at ENO, and ask; why has it taken so long for this superb emotional journey, to be given its place in our modern Italian repertoire.
The young lady rushes down the steps at Charing Cross tube and bundles into the last Bakerloo carriage. She is finely dressed. She sits down quickly, next to me, there is a colour in her cheeks and she looks perplexed, almost excited.
I ask “You went to the Opera then?”
She can hardly get the words out of her mouth; “Oh yes! Wasn’t it absolutely fantastic!!”
You could argue that the essence of opera, is the use of voice, to transform our soul. What starts as the random singing in the shower, is the embryo of the fine tuned and perfect journey that opera – on a good day – can become, … can reach heights we had not envisaged.
This was not a good day.
This was an exceptional day. A stunning and riveting musical expression that ranks among the very best of my own many decades of witnessing ENO opera. The Direction had a tightness and absolute sync with the onstage protagonists, that drove our two protagonists, Luisa and Rodolfo forward, intertwined with a precise orchestra, and a developing and increasing symbolism from light to dark, white to black, good to evil, that is recognisable only after the event, when you get home and say to yourself : “yes indeed – that was fantastic!”
This discussion note, is not a musical critique. There are others who can do a better job than I – and my role is merely to express my feelings as a human being, of an evening that unfolds.
This modern and superbly edgy production of “Luisa Miller” has melody, a flow and inevitability that pulls you along, the chemistry between all of the protagonists, and I could name them all, the phenomenal singing, that is so convincing in terms of emotion expressed that you know you are with Luisa in her bewilderment and despair, are alongside Rodolfo in the final scene and are powerless to intervene. We are mere bystanders watching a human tragedy that has long since gone beyond musical expression.
There is only one Harewood artist, Nadine Benjamin, and perhaps that is for the best. This opera needs experienced hands. Even then, Nadine comes to the stage as exemplary in Porgy and Bess. This is no lightweight cast. Elizabeth Llewelyn as Luisa already has a stellar reputation in Italian opera. Baritone Olafur Sigudarson is an international Classical sInger of the Year, and I can go on.
And yet, my standout moment, is not the signing, or even the music. It is the cleverness, the subtlety, the little touches that you pick up here and throughout this production.
I left the auditorium, it was raining, and I hurried across the square down to the tube station entrance. A northbound train was already arriving and the rear doors just stayed open long enough.