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Our motto: "Critical thinking in the cheap seats." Unbiased, honest classical music and opera opinions, occasional obituaries and classical news reporting, since 2007. All written content © 2019 by Paul J. Pelkonen. For more about Superconductor, visit this link. For advertising rates, click this link. Follow us on Facebook.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

DVD Review: I due Foscari at La Scala

Renato Bruson as Francesco Foscari.

This is a fascinating DVD, filmed at La Scala in 1988 and originally broadcast on RAI Rome Television. Written right after Ernani, I due Foscari is based on a play by Lord Byron, andremains one of the least-known early Verdi operas. Frankly, while the music is quite wonderful, the libretto (an early Piave effort) lacks drama. It is a story of power and politics, the wheels of justice in 15th century Venice, and of a father and son caught in their gears.

One reason to see this opera is the performance of baritone Renato Bruson in the leading role Francesco Foscari, the Doge of Venice. Old Foscari is a father who is about to lose his son, who has been convicted of murder. Instead, he loses everything, including his crown and his life. Bruson is simply towering in the opening scenes and then frail and vulnerable in the final act. This role is ideally suited to the great baritone, and is one of his finest performances available on home video.

The role of Jacopo Foscari is an ungrateful one. The Doge's son copes with his murder conviction by singing a lot of treacherous high notes. (That's the other reason you don't see this opera too often.) Tenor Albert Cupido hits the notes, but his piercing delivery and stiff "tenor-ish" acting fail to draw the viewer's sympathy, especially in the crucial prison scene. As Lucrezia, soprano Linda Roark-Strummer sings with a sharp, incisive attack that makes the character memorable, if not always likeable.

The production is a curious modern staging with all the action of this very dark opera taking place in…the dark. Even thes simulated grand canals of Venice look as if they have seen better days in this grim setting , dominated by a huge throne and giant staircase. The whole affair is ably conducted by Gianandrea Gavazzeni, who displays mastery of the early Verdi style. I due Foscari is not the most interesting or spectacular of Verdi's "galley years" operas, but this DVD may be your only chance to see it.

Watch a scene from I due Foscari

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