Luisa Miller is a coup for Opera Australia, which along with its partner Opéra de Lausanne, is staging this rarely seen production in Australia for the first time.
It is also a triumph for Nicole Car, who takes on the exacting title role and carries it off spectacularly.
From her first aria ‘Lo vidi e ‘l primo palpito’, she shows her command of the complex bel canto style required of this role, while in the second act, four of the performers must sing an extended a capella aria and be pitch perfect when the orchestra finally rejoins the singers.
The black and white colour theme and the stark minimalist set (designed by William Orlandi) have the effect of severing the story from its nineteenth century setting and placing in a timeless zone of human passions.
The libretto gives us a Romeo and Juliet type story, complete with star-crossed lovers Luisa and Rodolfo, sung by Diego Torre, the tenor with the unfalteringly big voice.
Their feuding parents — Luisa’s father sung by baritone Dalibor Jenis and Count Walter sung by bass Raymond Aceto — add plenty of dramatic intensity to the unfolding tragedy.
Eva Kong gives a touching performance as Laura the village girl, Sian Pendry is magnificent as Rodolfo’s cousin Federica, and Daniel Sumegi is predictably excellent as Count Walter’s steward, the menacing Wurm.
I have some minor quibbles with director Giancarlo del Monaco, but conductor Andrea Licata wrings maximum intensity from the score to make this a truly memorable production. (ID)
Until Feb 29. Joan Sutherland Theatre, Sydney Opera House. $44-$330. Tickets & info: opera.org.au