admin On dicembre - 17 - 2015


by Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi

Giuseppe Verdi’s dramma lirico opens Teatro alla Scala’s new season. Giovanna d’Arco returned to Milan’s opera house after 150 years, for “La Prima” on December 7th, feast day of Saint Ambrose, patron saint of the city. For the first time, Riccardo Chailly, principal conductor and successor to Daniel Barenboim, was on the podium, with Anna Netrebko in the title role of warrior-saint and Francesco Meli as Carlo VII, king of France.
The libretto by Temistocle Solera, partly reflects the story of Joan of Arc and finds its major inspiration in the play Die Jungfrau von Orleans by Friedrich von Schiller. Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier opted to explore the psychological state of both father and daughter, through the minimalistic designs by Christian Fenouillat, mixed with video-art projections by Étienne Guiol  and crossed time zones from the middle ages to the 19th century.
The action is in Giovanna’s bedroom. Carlo VII is about to surrender to the English enemy. Giovanna dreams of taking up arms for her country. Her pious father believes the girl is in league with the devil or, worse, no longer intacta. Only as she lies dying is her innocence proven in a celestial revelation. Verdi and his librettist, Solera, added mystic choruses of vile demons, with mawkish accompaniment of harmonium and triangle or, when the angels turn up, a heavenly harp. Chailly paid meticulous attention to every detail, using Alberto Rizzuti’s 2008 critical edition, especially with the cabaletta repeats.
The orchestra was vibrant and impeccable, although at times the complex vocal score seemed to clash with such instrumental perfection, simply because of the daring and demanding singing score. The strings were amorous, particularly the violins that delivered great chemistry; whilst the brass and woodwind were jaunty. Every accompaniment shaped with minutely controlled crescendos and decrescendos, giving them imperative dilemma.
The soprano who took over her La Scala predecessor (Erminia Fezzolini on February 15th 1845), Anna Netrebko, was utterly overwhelming. Her full range voice was elegant and gentle. The Russian diva seemed brazen towards Carlo VII, played by Francesco Meli who, covered head to foot in gold paint, delivered top notes with a robust fine tone. Devid Cecconi replaced Carlos Alvarez as Giovanna’s father, Giacomo, with great artistry and lyricism; just as graceful were Dmitry Beloselskiy as Talbot and Michele Mauro as Delil and the entire La Scala choir conducted by Bruno Casoni.
Despite the Giovanna d’Arco does not represent Verdi at his most sophisticated (contrarily to his Macbeth, Nabucco, Un Ballo in Maschera and Ernani), the score’s vigour and the innovative portrayal of the Maid of Orleans presented a peculiarly captivating fanfare for La Prima of the new season.

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