VERDI I due Foscari
It’s little over a year since the last DVD of Verdi’s I due Foscari starring Plácido Domingo and Francesco Meli was reviewed in these pages. And, with the recent release of Domingo’s Los Angeles Macbeth (Sony, A/17), we certainly have no shortage of opportunities to experience the veteran former tenor as he explores his new baritone territory. I suspect, though, that only the most completist of his fans will want both his filmed performances of the present work.
C Major’s poorly translated booklet note might claim I due Foscari as Verdi’s ‘most darkest and saddest’ work (itself a debatable assertion), but it is not one of the composer’s most compelling dramas. Though relatively short and underdeveloped in terms of characterisation, it nonetheless offers Foscari père some meaty music and juicy scenes. The role, as well as being age-appropriate, seems to sit very well for Domingo’s voice. He never really sounds like a baritone – either in terms of colour or an ability to spin a Verdian line – but, as on the earlier film, is in sturdy, confident voice, and the old charisma shows no signs of abandoning him.
Meli repeats his robust turn as Jacopo, singing with considerable ardour and an authentically Italianate catch in the voice, even if his tenor is on the unpolished side. Anna Pirozzi is a terrific Lucrezia. The voice is bright and fearless, and her performance, though rather generalised in dramatic terms, offers a heartening display of old-school Italian vocalism: grand, confident and given extra pungency by the occasional tartness in intonation.
Alvis Hermanis’s production, some naff additions notwithstanding, is largely traditional, served up with a big dose of nostalgia. The costumes are period, and the set spends a lot of time framing sepia‑tinged pictures of old Venice; Gleb Filshtinsky’s lighting opts for muted pastels – don’t be fooled by the picture on the cover. The direction of the principals and chorus is no-frills. The frills come instead in dancing counsellors at the start, synchronised gondoliers and, during the big scene for Jacopo and Lucrezia at the start of Act 2, statues of lions wheeled clumsily around.
If you can stand those irritations, though, this staging might well be preferable to Thaddeus Strassberger’s tricksy and messy Covent Garden show, not least because Michele Mariotti’s conducting – an expertly judged mixture of grandeur and fire – strikes me as no less impressive than Antonio Pappano’s.