Friday, 6 September 2013

Project Verdi : I Lombardi

I Lombardi alla prima crociata (to give it its full title) is a bit of a strange beast. It premiered at La Scala early in 1843, and was another great success; although critical reaction was slightly more muted than it had been for Nabucco. Its importance, perhaps, lies less in its own merits than in the fact that it firmly cemented Verdi's reputation.

The recording : James Levine and the New York Met; with Samuel Ramey, June Anderson, and Luciano Pavarotti.

The plot : actually quite a good one. Two Milanese brothers fall out during the time of the crusade, but with a bit of a twist in that Pagano (the evil one) becomes a saintly hermit and redeems himself, whereas Arvino (the good one) spends the latter part of the opera spreading destruction across the Holy Land. The Muslim characters are sympathetically painted, and one of them, Oronte, even gets the girl (he does, however, have to convert to Christianity first, and he dies shortly afterwards for his pains). It's also ahead of its time in that the character of Giselda dares to suggest that the Crusades may not be entirely a Good Thing ("it is not the cause of God to spread blood across the earth"), although Verdi and his librettist (Solera, again) get away with this by suggesting that Giselda has temporarily lost her reason.

There's also the plot device (similarly used, albeit even more unconvincingly, in Il Trovatore) of having Pagano kill off his dad by mistake because it's a bit dark.

It's not a great work, but never less than enjoyable. Strange, perhaps, that it gets revived so rarely - given the subject matter it must be crying out for a modern interpretation?


3 comments:

  1. Your low brow fan here. I just remembered that my first exposure to Verdi was in the French movie Jean de Florette. The musical score was based around the aria Invano Alvaro from Giuseppe Verdi's opera La forza del destino. Talk about foreshadowing bad things to come ...

    I must see that movie again.

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    1. Hah, I can trump you in the lowbrow stakes, as my first exposure to Verdi was also via La Forza del Destino as part of the soundtrack to a low budget British horror film (nothing quite as classy as Jean de Florette :-))

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  2. Darn, I can't even win the low brow stakes. I'm such a loser .... :-)

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