Strong performances: Luisa (Mané Galoyan) and Rodolfo (Charles Castronovo) (Image: Richard Hubert Smith © Glyndebourne Productions Ltd)
This year, of course, Covid-19 gave added difficulties with social distancing posing problems for both audiences and singers.
The former resulted in a reduction in the number of seats sold, while the latter involved dividing the principal members of the cast into bubbles for rehearsals while the usual chorus performs not on the main stage but in a rehearsal room, with their voices transmitted to the theatre.
According to George Bernard Shaw, “Opera is when a tenor and soprano want to make love but are prevented from doing so by a baritone.”
He might have added that the difference between comic opera and grand opera is that in the former, true love wins out and the tenor and the soprano live happily ever after, while in the latter, the soprano dies and sometimes the tenor does too.
Luisa Miller offers a tragic example of this, with plenty of intrigue and villainy on the way. Also, the loving couple is plagued not by a baritone but two bass voices in cahoots.
Rodolfo and Count Walter (Evgeny Stavinsky) – with Enrique Mazzola conducting the orchestra (Image: Richard Hubert Smith © Glyndebourne Productions Ltd)
Luisa, the daughter of a humble widower, is in love with a man she knows as Carlo, but Carlo is actually Rodolfo, the son of Count Walter, who rules the village they live in.
The Count does not want his son running off with a peasant girl, but has plans for Rodolfo to marry a local young widow named Federica.
The arrogance and social-climbing ambitions of the count, however, are dwarfed by the pure villainy of his secretary and henchman Wurm, who concocts an elaborate plot to spread lies to Luisa’s father with the ultimate plan of getting Luisa for himself.
Glyndebourne has assembled a magnificent cast for all the leading parts in this story.
The title role is played by Armenian soprano Mané Galoyan, whose captivating voice and appearance combine to create a picture of innocence perfect for the role.
Luisa and Wurm (Krzysztof Bączyk)… Enchanting voices (Image: Richard Hubert Smith © Glyndebourne Productions Ltd)
By contrast, the other main female role of Federica is superbly taken by Russian mezzo-soprano Nadezhda Karyazina, whose glorious lower range perfectly conveys the power and haughtiness of the dowager duchess.
American tenor Charles Castronovo started slowly as Rodolfo but improved as his character grew in desperation, especially after the interval in the later acts, as his anguish grew.
With both the fathers, Russian bass Evgeny Stavinsky as Count Walter and Belarussian baritone Vladislav Sulimsky as Miller, also playing their parts with true passion, and Polish bass Krzysztof Bączyk skulking around splendidly as the villainous Wurm, one could not ask for more convincing performances.
With Verdi specialist Enrique Mazzola meticulously conducting the London Philharmonic Orchestra, this all added up to a musical treat.
Luisa Miller may lack the grandeur of later, better-known Verdi operas such as La Traviata and Rigoletto, but a production such as this shows its power in a brilliantly stark fashion.
Federica (Nadezhda Karyazina) angry at Rodolfo’s rejection of her (Image: Richard Hubert Smith © Glyndebourne Productions Ltd)
My one reservation was the production itself, directed by Christof Loy. I liked his minimalist set design, consisting mainly of white walls and ceiling, which I thought matched the bleakness of the plot, but having many actors running around during the overture with the men chasing and bothering the women seemed to me rather unnecessary.
Most of all, however, I was perplexed by the director’s decision not to let Rodolfo stab Wurm to death at the end, as indeed the programme said he would.
Various dates until August 2021 – tickets and further information, here