Review: ‘Luisa Miller’ at SF Opera (***)

by Charles Kruger
Rating: *****

Leath Crocetto as Louisa MIller at SF Opera. Photo Credit: Cory Weaver.
Leath Crocetto as Louisa MIller at SF Opera. Photo Credit: Cory Weaver.
This reviewer is a voting member of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle (SFBATCC)
This reviewer is a voting member of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle (SFBATCC)

Although Verdi, is of course, one of the towering giants of the operatic repertoire, Luisa Miller is a lesser work, best known for being a transitional piece that introduces Verdi’s “middle period” of masterpieces, including the much better known and well-loved “Rigoletto” and “La Traviata.”

Although it does not boast the irresistably memorable melodies for which the later Verdi is so well-loved, it has many typical elements including rousing choral passeges, sympathetic working people vs a corrupt aristocracy, and beautiful arias allowing opportunities for classic bel canto performance.

The current production is pleasant enough, and boasts beautiful staging and some lovely singing, but it fails to generate very much excitement.

Michael Yeargan’s design succeeds extremely well. Not trying to be realistic, he incorporates paintings and simple set pieces —a primitive bed to represent the home of the poor young heroine — beautiful tapestries and fine statuary to represent the palace of the duke. The mostly empty stage allows for fluid movement between the various settings and for the chorus to be presented in a simple, straightforward manner that suits the music well.

As Luisa, Leah Crocetto has several moments where she demonstrates a fine virtuosity, but for the most part her singing and acting are workmanlike. As her lover Rodolfo, Michael Fabiano fares much better, receiving the evening’s longest and most enthusiastic ovations, which are well-deserved.

The choral passages are well performed under the direction of Ian Robertson and the orchestra demonstrates its usual competence as conducted by Nicola Luisotti.

This is an opera that will neither bore nor thrill, but will certainly be of interest to fans of Verdi who will be pleased to see a less-often performed work by the master.

Luisa Miller plays for one more matinee performance  at the War Memorial Opera House on September 27. For further information click here.

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“Luisa Miller” by Guiseppe Verdi, text by Salvadore Cammarano, based on the play “Kabale and Liebe” by Friedrich Schiller, produced by SF Opera. Director: Laurie Feldman. Conductor: Nicola Luisotti. Production: Francesca Zambello. Set Designer: Michael Yeargan. Costume Designer: Dunya Ramicova. Lighting Designer: Gary Marder. Chorus Director: Ian Robertson. Choreographer: Lawrence Pech. Fight Director: Dave Maier.

Cast:

Laura: Jacqueline Piccolino. Miller: Vitaliy Bilyy. Luisa Miller:  Leah Crocetto. Rodolfo: Michael Fabiano. Wurm: Andrea Silvestrelli. Count Walter: Daniel Sumegi. Federica: Ekaterina Semenchuk. A peasant: ChristopherJackson.

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