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For half the opera world Plácido Domingo is a pariah, for the other half a hero. Italy doesn’t seem to have a problem with him, and the Arena di Verona mounted a 50th anniversary event in his honour, featuring excerpts from Verdi’s Nabucco, Macbeth and Simon Boccanegra with Domingo singing the three baritone title roles. A strange celebration when considered: a mad sleepwalker, two choruses of oppression and three death scenes (Abigaille, Macbeth and Boccanegra). Consequently it is all rather subdued. Domingo does his thing – the voice is astonishingly preserved in tone, the phrasing is choppy, there is no baritonal core, and it occasionally flares into life at the top. Macbeth is perhaps his best vocal moment, while Boccanegra gives him something to do, namely die. Anna Pirozzi is a good soprano, though her Lady Macbeth looks no more deranged than someone who can’t find the right aisle in Sainsbury’s. Marko Mimica’s bass is rich, but disconcertingly he looks fifty years younger than his son-in-law Boccanegra. Best of all is Arturo Chacón-Cruz, whose stylish tenor has both sheen and heft. Jordi Bernàcer’s conducting holds everything together. The staging is simple and the camerawork attempts to make it more interesting by moving among the chorus, though there is a curious attempt to upskirt the tenor at one point.

Korngold’s Violanta has a rare outing, filmed in Turin. It is one of the queasy early 20th-century stories that composers latched on to: Violanta persuades her husband to kill the man who caused her sister’s suicide, only to fall for him herself and take the fatal stabbing. The seventeen-year-old composer’s music gives notice of the lushness to come, if it doesn’t quite have the big tunes that dominate Die tote Stadt and Das Wunder der Heliane. Pier Luigi Pizzi’s production is simple but luxurious, and Pinchas Steinberg’s conducting suitably Romantic. Annemarie Kremer’s soprano soars and shimmers in the title role, and Norman Reinhardt’s tenor pours out some exciting tone – they make a viably sexy couple (despite some unflattering lighting). Michael Kupfer- Radecky draws the short-straw role as the husband, but his baritone is ample.

Francis Muzzu Read the full review on Agora Classica


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