MOZART Lucio Silla (Minkowski)
Although this production of the teenage Mozart’s Lucia Silla was first seen at the Salzburg Festival in 2013, it was filmed when it transferred two years later to Milan, where the work was premiered on Boxing Day 1772. That premiere at the Teatro Regio Ducal was hampered by recalcitrant singers and delayed by two hours by the Archduke, distracted by his correspondence – thank-you letters for Christmas presents, perhaps.
Despite a handful of appearances on disc, the work has since languished somewhat in that difficult early-Mozart no-man’s-land, the brilliance of much of the music held back by the stiff dramatic aesthetic of high opera seria. Marshall Pynkoski’s production is admirable for the way that it deals with this issue.
Here’s a director who makes no apology for the work. While others might be tempted to overload the stage with distractions to keep the audience engaged during its string of da capo arias, Pynkoski draws you in to engage with them, directing each singer with an impressive, engaging eye for detail. He creates his own aesthetic of artful, flowing theatricality, which is underlined effectively by Antoine Fontaine’s designs. The stage offers austere Baroque grandeur with fluid shifting of set and backdrops; the costumes, not a toga in sight, are swashbuckling rococo.
There are occasional snippets of dumb show acted out behind, but these are very much the exception, and are often barely noticeable in camera direction that concentrates on the singers. Dancers crop up during the choral numbers, and offer some delicate waving-about of swords at the end of Act 2, but are generally employed sparingly. All told, it’s a relatively straightforward show – certainly more so than Jürgen Flimm’s Venice staging on DG (3/07) – but an eminently effective one.
It benefits from a fine cast, too. Krešimir Špicer sings mellifluously, even if his tone is short on sweetness and focus, and does all he can to make Silla himself sympathetic – a tall order with this dictator who, in time-honoured fashion, finds enlightenment just in time. Marianne Crebassa makes a fantastic Cecilio, handsome and beautifully sung, and Lenneke Ruiten offers a noble, determined performance as Giunia – Cecilio’s betrothed and Silla’s crush. Inga Kalna is formidable in the other trouser role of Cinna, and Giulia Semenzato charming as a coquettish Celia; the attempt to introduce a bit of humour into their interactions, however, falls flat.
Mark Minkowski conducts the La Scala orchestra with plenty of verve, if not quite the drive you get from Adám Fischer on his Dacapo set (A/08). Eagle-eyed readers might notice the lack of a second tenor: the smaller role of Aufidio indeed gets the chop in a performance that otherwise offers most of Mozart’s notes.
The interval, incidentally, is placed half way through Act 2, after Giunia’s show-stopping ‘Ah se il crudel periglio’, but the track-listings on the pop-up Blu-ray menu and in C major’s poor booklet confusingly – and erroneously – describe the whole first half as ‘Act 1’. Never mind: for an effective video version of this opera, this can be recommended.