Luisa Miller

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Bergonzi, Rubin, Salazar, Passigli, Pasquetto, Pertusi, Zanellato; Campori. In Italian, no subtitles. (1986). 152m. Color. NTSC or PAL VHS

Bergonzi may be endearing, but, usually, he is not thrilling. To thrill, a voice needs squillo (ring or ping). His voice ordinarily is round and warm but without sufficient brilliance to be called squillante. Tenor Fernando De Lucia is said to have remarked that one is in truly good voice only once a year. For Bergonzi, this has got to have been that day. It’s certainly the best I’ve ever heard him. His sound is both plush and oomphy, with more core and pharyngeal resonance than usual. It’s also better tuned.

When he has become passionate I’ve sometimes found him bombastic. But here he gives spinal chills in the first-act finale and in his cabaletta-rousing the audience to a huge ovation.

Cristina Rubin, the Luisa, has an especially luminous top, a good breath span, but no chest resonance and, in the first two acts, not enough pathos or inwardness. But, then, the death scene: suddenly here are the excitement and the tears.

Bergonzi is credited as the artistic director and the entire cast seems to share his emission, so that most of the voices fit well together (they’re placed in the cheeks or behind the eyes). This is a well-rehearsed performance with handsome-sounding singers. Don’t be put off if you haven’t heard of most of them. Angelo Campori’s conducting is beautifully phrased. The performance as a whole will gratify your viscera.–Stefan Zucker


David McKee, reviewing in The Opera Quarterly

“This video presents a great artist in one of his greatest roles. While Carlo Bergonzi will be remembered at least as well for his performances in Un ballo in maschera, and perhaps Pagliacci (both also captured on video [see Related Products, below]), Rodolfo in Luisa Miller was a role that he served–and that served him–long and well. To have him here, in enviably good form for a sixty-two-year old, isn’t just valuable; it’s priceless.

“Bergonzi’s sound remains magnificent, probably the best lyric tenor voice to emerge from Italy since Gigli’s. Yes, he’s a rotund and fatherly Rodolfo, but a sweet one, and blessed with tonal formation and stylistic cultivation that flirt with perfection. The encroachment of age is evident in a less pliant top voice, as well as in some awkward breath-takings and obtruding aspirates. Maybe the acting is mostly dutiful, but all the prescribed drama is in the voice, with its unmistakable sonic personality and subtle colorations. Just sample the delicate mix of menace and need with which Bergonzi weights ‘Amasti Wurm?’ How about the sudden and breath-stopping mezza voce at ‘Ah! lungi, lungi quel volto lusinghier’?

“Bergonzi’s signature tune, ‘Quando le sere al placido,’ has its affect devalued by frequent aitches, which also disrupt the spin of his tone, though not sufficiently so as to put off the Bussetans, who accord an ovation so enormous that Bergonzi must curtail it. He rallies for the cabaletta, voiced in accents both rousingly defiant and despairing. In act 3, Bergonzi’s histrionic deportment is often quite affecting, tenderly solicitous in the final pages. Okay, his death scene is amusingly (but genuinely) grand and theatrical. However, I remember once seeing Luciano Pavarotti expire in this same role by dint of bending slightly over a table.”

Milanese soprano Cristina Rubin, born in 1959, made her debut in 1982. She had specialized in earlier music (Pergolesi, Gluck and Mozart), and this shows in the classic line and seamless legato she exhibits throughout the opera. She has a tight vibrato she controls brilliantly. It is lifegiving. The top of her voice, much in use in this role, rings out freely every time. She is a purely lyric Luisa with lovely tone. Everything she achieves vocally is without the slightest sense of effort. Since she has been singing a more recent repertoire throughout Italy and Switzerland during the past decade, one can only wonder why the Met hasn’t grabbed her to replace one or more of their current dreadfuls.–Joe Pearce, President of The Vocal Record Collector’s Society