Andrew's Opera was previously published at

15 February, 2016

Luisa Miller - Verdi - Sydney Opera House Thursday 11 Feb 2016

Dear Colleagues,

Luisa Miller in Sydney is vocally magnificent and is a MUST-SEE show for the season.  Get a ticket quickly as there are only seven performances in all.  This Verdi gem came just before Rigoletto - and it shows some of the same father - daughter interactions, combined with a parallel father - son relationship causing insoluble tensions only resolved by death (poisoning this time - and only after a lot of magnificent singing). 

Nicole Car has all that it takes for this taxing dramatic and vocal role.  I cannot understand why she appears in three negligees when everyone else is in 20th century attire.  The reason she has to spend so much time on the ground is that there are no props on stage apart from wire chairs, mostly on their sides.  The protagonists’ castles have no couches, no tables, no doors, windows, stairs or fireplaces … just bare black ramped stage.  No problem, we can imagine all of the above … but why then did we need to see an inane slow-motion roller-coaster during the overture, replete with chorus slowly encircling the stage with out-sized candles?  Luna Park did better 50 years ago.  Do they really think that we need something extraneous to keep us awake during what might be Verdi’s best overture?  Any activity on stage necessarily detracts from what the composer wanted and what his audience deserves. 

The same rote chorus manoeuvre happened during the opera’s most famous aria, partially obscuring Mr Torre as he sang ‘Quando le sere al placido’ to enormous and well deserved applause.  In this long tenor scene Mr Torre did not quite pace himself and ran short on voice just before the end - a small failing considering the feat … and for the final scenes the voice returned intact and full heft. 

One wonders if the artistic contributors actually like opera … they certainly don’t understand it from this outing to my mind.  And they seem to have collaborated with tobacco companies, and distractingly so.  The co-production from Lausanne originally planned to have the monochrome epoxy Tussaud’s domestic scene swung up 90 degrees around to be at the rear of the stage but in Sydney it ends up high above it.  It is so badly designed that (if it mattered) half the audience could not see a cream gentlemen and top-hat BEHIND the huge cream fire place, whatever significance that may have had.  But they do make fine watches in Switzerland. 

Luisa’s father is played by Slovak baritone Mr Dalibor Jenis who is possessed of a large and expressive voice and dramatic skills to boot.  We heard his Onegin two years ago and I hope we will be hearing more of him in the future, such is the rare beauty of his voice and his ability to nail an exciting high note when required. 

Almost uniquely, this opera calls for two basses, local Daniel Sumegi as ‘Wurm’ and American Raymond Aceto as Count Walter.  They both need to portray profound evil as each has dark secrets which are ably conveyed in the wonderful Verdi score.  Both sang with skill and conviction and their famous duet was stunning. 

The orchestra under Andrea Licata was responsive and tireless.  The solo clarinettist was not credited in the program hand-out despite being featured prominently in the opera, starting with the overture. 

Both Rigoletto and Luisa Miller contain vocal and dramatic experiments and it is self evident that the former were more successful than the latter.  Some of the vocal lines in Luisa Miller are more acrobatic than elegant with staccato and stepping progressions.  Yet we have a rare opera with an excellent cast in our distant opera world which is indeed a privilege and an opportunity for any opera lover.  Tickets from $44 to $300 nobody should miss out but it is selling fast.