Friday, May 6, 2011

Verdi - Jerusalem - Fabio Luisi, L'Orchestre de la Suisse Romande







Jérusalem is Verdi's 1847 Paris rewrite of I Lombardi, composed four years earlier. He made extensive revisions, dropping scenes and characters to give more coherence to the fanciful story. The orchestra was expanded, a ballet added, and new music composed, all playing to the French taste for grandeur, a taste that was especially gratified by his new, smashing finale.

The plot: Gaston, the tenor, is falsely accused by the Count's brother, Roger, of stabbing the Count, father to his fiancée, Hélène. Gaston is exiled and the penitent Roger becomes a hermit in Palestine where everybody, including Hélène, winds up in the pre-millennial Crusade of 1099. Gaston and Hélène are Fabio Luisi taken prisoner and rescued by the victorious Crusaders, whose leader, the Count, understandably annoyed at discovering his daughter with his would-be assassin, condemns Gaston to death. Roger gives Gaston a sword so he can join the battle of Jerusalem. Gaston is hailed as a hero, the wounded Roger confesses all, and everybody sings a rousing victory anthem.

Marcello Giordani is excellent as the wronged Gaston. He may not be another Gilbert Duprez, the toast of Paris who created the role, but he comes as close as we can get these days. He's a lyric tenor well on his way to becoming a spinto, bringing to the role some lovely soft singing in the love duet and some thrilling high notes elsewhere. He varies tone and dynamics nicely and creates a believable character. As Hélène, soprano Marina Mescheriakova matches him vocally and dramatically. She's exciting in ornate passages and has the big, powerful voice and easy phrasing that mark a fine Verdi soprano.

The lesser roles are, well, lesser, although the Roger, Roberto Scandiuzzi, balances a rough Act 1 with nuanced, inward singing elsewhere. None of the leads are French, leading to occasional oddities of pronunciation (as in Gaston's "misero" for "misère"). Fabio Luisi conducts a vigorous performance, finding the right tempos and drawing excellent playing and singing from his orchestra and chorus. The sound has the immediacy an early Verdi opera needs. Jérusalem may not be a masterpiece, but even lesser Verdi is worth hearing, especially in such a convincing performance.--Dan Davis,

Performer:  Marina Mescheriakova,  Marcello Giordani,  Roberto Scandiuzzi,  Philippe Rouillon,  Simon Edwards, Hélène Le Corre,  Daniel Borowski,  Wolfgang Barta,  Slobodan Stankovic, Jovo Reljin
Conductor:  Fabio Luisi
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Suisse Romande Orchestra,  Geneva Grand Theatre Chorus


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