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Verdi – Luisa Miller

Rudolfo – Luciano Pavarotti
Luisa – Gilda Cruz Romo
Walter – Raffaele Arie
Wurm – Feruccio Mazzoli
Miller – Matteo Manuguerra
Frederica – Christina Angelakova
Laura – Anna Di Stasio

Orchestra Sinfonica Rai di Torino/Peter Maag

Arts Archives 43088-2
[Live Recording 1974; 137 mins]

Luisa Miller is one of those middle period Verdi operas which gets a regular airing on the international stage without quite making it into the staple repertoire.   The roles of Rudolfo, Luisa and her father demand singers of the highest calibre, and in Wurm and Frederica you have two of the nastiest villains you are likely to encounter, which require a an appropriately dark echo in their voices.  

For many years the standard recording has been the Decca set with Pavarotti, Caballe, Milnes and a well chosen supporting cast (including Richard Van Allan’s chillingly malicious Worm).  Now re-mastered, it remains available at a competitive price as part of Decca’s “Legendary Recordings” series (475 8496). 

What we have now is its pre-curser, in the shape of a radio recording which drew critical acclaim and put in motion plans for a studio recording.   In both cases conductor Peter Maag was at the head of proceedings.  The title role is sung for Rai by the exciting young Mexican soprano Gilda Cruz Romo making her Italian debut.

It is arguable that the opera should have been entitled “Rudolfo” as the tenor has the meat of the solos culminating in Quando le sere al placido and the cabaletta that follows.  Pavarotti was in superb voice in 1970s, and there is little to choose between his two performances.    

That said, it is with the duets and ensembles that Verdi shows his true colours in this opera, so balance and blending of voices is important.   In both recordings the singers are well matched, but with the immediacy of a live soundtrack these exchanges carry real dramatic tension, making this set a welcome addition to the catalogue.

Serena Fenwick