I have a confession to make. At my advanced age, and as much as I call myself an
Ernani is the fifth of Mr. Verdi's 28 operas. I'd call it second-tier Verdi, among the best of the rest. It's not Rigoletto or La Traviata, but it's not without charm or merit. The story is based on a play by Mr. Hugo of Les Miserables fame, whose play Le Roi s'Amuse later provided the inspiration for Rigoletto. The libretto is by Mr. Piave, with a lot of input from Mr. Verdi. The story is typically upper-case-R Romantic: Boy loves girl. Old fart loves girl. King loves girl. (She certainly did get around!) In the end boy and girl are "united in Heaven" and nobody gets what he wants. Except for the King, who becomes the Holy Roman Emperor and doesn't mind about the girl so much any more. All of this happens to stunning music by Verdi, with typically sweeping melodies and rhythmically driven orchestral accompaniments.
|Photo by Devon Cass|
A very accomplished tenor recently pointed out to me that the reason Mr. Pavarotti was so successful in Verdi roles that might seem like a stretch for a lyric voice is that the roles lie very high--passaggio and above, where Pavarotti really shone. Often today I hear singers with large voices who appear to focus so much on a big sound that they don't seem to have the brilliance in their high voices that they're capable of. One such tenor is young Roberto De Biasio, last night's Ernani. He is a good singer, to be sure, and he's certainly working in very prestigious houses, but to my ear he is not on the same level as the rest of the cast.
The Met chorus and orchestra are always fabulous, but I must say there seemed to be some occasional differences of opinion between them and conductor Marco Armiliato, which is quite unusual in my recent experience.
And I can't say I'm crazy about the directing. I think several of the singers could have used much stronger direction, and I was not kidding when I tweeted at intermission "I don't have a score in front of me--does it say 'Chorus mills about randomly'?"
So to sum up the evening: Singing, fabulous overall; conducting, usually pretty good; directing, meh.