Opera Reviews
18 November 2019
Untitled Document

Domingo grabs the headlines, but Beczala steals the show



by Moore Parker
Verdi: Luis Miller
Salzburg Festival
31 August 2019
Plácido Domingo (Miller), Piotr Beczala (Rodolfo)

Salzburg produced a jewel of an evening to close this year’s Summer Festival, with a star-studded line-up in Verdi’s Luisa Miller - in a near traditional concert showcase to host Plácido Domingo in his ever-expanding range of baritone roles.

In exceptionally fresh voice on this occasion, Domingo’s inimitable tone remains luxuriant, ringing and absolutely steady, and with his phrasing still amazingly generous - while serving the score interpretively with his customary style and acumen.  

However, Domingo remains Domingo (and despite his early baritone origins) now simply echoes the tenor we have known (and admired) for decades - but in a lower tessitura.  A remarkable achievement - not only considering this legend’s longevity, but also in light of the undoubted pressure of recent events. Yet, despite all, not a Verdi baritone.      

In the title role Nino Machaidze oozes charm and - coupled with an appealingly natural demeanour - presented a winning and credible Luisa. Naturally, her soprano has gained in substance over the years and was initially a touch sluggish in agility, with some sustained notes also hinting at a slight beat in the vibrato. However, as the evening progressed her instrument gained in plasticity to fully score in the grand opportunities of Act 3.  

Yulia Matochkina’s imposing Frederica brought the ideal mélange of metal and velvet in her timbre, authentically Italianate in style, and in fact slightly reminiscent of the young Fiorenza Cossotto - which is a compliment indeed.

Roberto Tagliavini’s slender - but potent - bass-baritone rang true as Walter, while John Relyea contrasted well with his rather guttural boom as the unsavoury Wurm.   

Pleasing support in Oleg Zalytskiy’s Peasant, and Cecilia Molinari’s engaging and well-schooled Laura.

The true star of the evening was unquestionably Piotr Beczala - as indeed the final reception in the house confirmed. This was one of those rare performances in which the ideal combination of assets catalyzed to steal the show in a passionate reading, technically immaculate, and at exactly the right point in vocal and artistic maturity to guarantee a triumph.

A fine contribution by the Konzertvereinigung Wiener Staatsoper complimented the Mozarteumorchester Salzburg under the baton of James Conlan, in his rather belated - but well received - debut at the Salzburg Festival.

Text © Moore Parker
Photo © SF/Marco Borrelli
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