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Sunday Afternoon at the Opera - Verdi: Giovanna d'Arco

04/23/2017 1:00 pm
04/23/2017 4:30 pm

 

Sunday Afternoon at the Opera host Keith Brown writes:

Giuseppe Verdi was upset about the lukewarm reception the Milanese accorded to Giovanna d'Arco ("Joan of Arc"), the opera he wrote for the mid-winter carnival season at La Scala, 1844-45. Thereafter he refused to have anything to do with Italy's preeminent opera house, and stuck to his decision for forty two years. He relented and allowed his next-to-last opera, Otello, to be premiered in Milan only when he was sure of a smashing success.

There are several early Verdi operas that have never been admitted into the international standard repertoire. Perhaps Giovanna d'Arco has remained outside the Verdi canon because as a stage piece it has so little in common with the historical figure of Joan of Arc. The librettist Temistocle Solera invented an improbable romance between Joan and king Charles of France. Furthermore, Joan does not die a heretic's death at the stake. As I've said so many times before about lyric theater works heard on this program, the staging doesn't make much difference. You can't "see" it on radio. It's the sheer musicality of Verdi's score that counts, and this score is vintage Verdi through and through.

The esteemed diva soprano Monserrat Caballe sings as Joan (or Giovanna). Her father Giacomo is baritone Sherill Milnes, with superstar tenor Placido Domingo as Charles VII of France. James Levine leads the London Symphony Orchestra and Ambrosian Opera Chorus in this 1973 recorded performance for EMI for its first-ever release on vinyl disc. This recording was issued in the USA under the Angel label. I last broadcast it way back on Sunday, May 17, 1987.