April 2, 2008

The Metropolitan Opera has revised Ernani, and it is about time. This rarely performed opera by Giuseppe Verdi is long overdue for a major revival.  Perhaps it is the length:  four acts, two intermissions.  But many operas are long, some far longer than this 3 ½ hour work.  Perhaps the fact that Verdi’s other works include Rigoletto, la Traviata and Aida has something to do with it.  After all, one composer, no matter how great, cannot dominate a company’s repertoire in a limited season.  That must be it.

But this production was great.  The story is similar to many other operatic tragedies:  a heaven-born love which cannot be, due to familial and political exigencies.  All of the lead singers were really good, not so common I am compelled to observe.  Even the Met sometimes must do with good, but not very good singers at times.  Not so here.  Marcello Giordani as Ernani, Sondra Radvanovsky as Elvira, Ferruccio Furlanetto as Silva and Thomas Hampson as Don Carlo are all strong and a pleasure to listen to.  I am sometimes apprehensive when I know I will be sitting for hours in a concert hall even as magnificent as the Metropolitan Opera House, but I have no regrets this time. 

The singers didn’t just sing but acted.  A couple of great lines were:  “Fate was only mocking me by giving me a glimpse of joy,” and “Dying for vengeance is a fine and noble thing.”  But of course, even in grand opera, sometimes the lyrics express the obvious just because there have to be words in order for singers to sing them.  This is not scat singing where you can just do syllables.  No.  Words are necessary.  So “No one has seen a morning such as has dawned today,”  kind of scratched my ear canals going down.

But that is nit-picky.  This was a great show and if you haven’t caught up with this rare gem, do so if you get the opportunity.  Giuseppe Verdi’s Ernani at the Metropolitan opera.