Hamburg’s Verdi Trilogy: I Due Foscari, Last is Best

Verdi: I Due Foscari, Philarmoniker Hamburg, Staatsoper Chorus, Simone Young (conductor), Staatsoper Hamburg 16.11.2013 (JMI)


Verdi’s I Due Foscari- Production of the Hamburg Opera

Francesco Foscari: Andrzej Dobber
Lucrezia Contarini: Amarilli Nizza
Jacopo Foscari: Giuseppe Filianoti
Loredano: Ziyan Atfeh
Pisana: Maria Markina
Barbarigo: Dovlet Nurgeldiyev

New Production:
Direction: David Alden
Sets: Charles Edwards
Costumes: Brigitte Reuffenstuel
Lighting: Adam Silverman

With this performance of I Due Foscari, Hamburg’s Verdi trilogy and my stay came to an end. It’s the sixth opera composed by Verdi and his second collaboration with Francesco Piave and, in my opinion, Foscari was the best of the three Verdi operas that were programmed here.

Foscari is one of Verdi’s most satisfying operas from the so-called “years in the galleys,” but it is seldom performed and almost a rarity. Hamburg again offered a production by David Alden and his team. The sets repeated from the previous stagings only in the final scene, where we were again back to a naked stage with a big gate at the back; in the first act there were some mobile panels which allowed for quick scene changes, and Act II was set in an underground prison with a long staircase for access. The costumes seemed to correspond to Fascist days, except for the great cape that the Doge wore for his official acts. The lighting was excellent, especially in the prison scene where it tied in beautifully to the gloomy environment of the production.

David Alden’s direction focused on the individual characters, and he once again placed the choir in a gallery above the stage, as if it were a Greek chorus. The characters were well defined and the story effectively narrated. The best part of the production took place at the Regata, where Alden showed what imagination can do on stage. His gondolas deserved the audience’s applause because they were a superb product of his creativity.

The musical direction was absolutely convincing. During her years in Hamburg, Simone Young has conducted quite a lot of German opera, including the Wagner Tetralogy, but she has a rare affinity with the music of Verdi which flows naturally and convincingly from her baton. She has certainly been the main draw of these Verdi operas in Hamburg, and I look forward to seeing her again. She drew a remarkable performance from the orchestra, and the choir was outstanding as well.

Vocally, Verdi makes major demands of the three main performers in this opera. The trio here was competent and professional although all of them experienced problems.

Baritone Andrzej Dobber was a good interpreter of Francesco Foscari, showing an attractive and wide voice in the middle range. Trouble arose when the tessitura went higher: all his high notes were thrown out at forte, as if he were afraid to continue controlling his voice as he had done in the middle of the tessitura. In the final scene he had serious difficulty with the beautiful “Questa dunque è l’ iniqua mercede,” but he recovered for the final part of the death scene.

Amarilli Nizza in the part of Lucrezia Contarini sang with strength and temperament at all times. Above the middle range her timbre loses quality and the high notes are  problematic, but she covers this with her skills as a performer .

Giuseppe Filianoti was Jacopo Foscari, and I was surprised by his vocal evolution in the nearly three years since I last heard him. His light lyric tenor voice is still beautiful in the center and now has a more sonorous lower range than before, but higher notes have always resisted him, and even more so now. In his first scene he made ​​us fear the worst, but things got better and he was an almost-convincing young Foscari, although I don’t find his voice suited for the role.

Ziyan Atfeh was a sonorous Loredano, offering more quantity than quality.

In the secondary characters I liked Maria Markina as Pisana, but wasn’t impressed by Dovlet Nurgeldiyev as Barbarigo.

The Staatsoper was almost sold out. The audience was very warm, as usual. There were sound cheers for the three protagonists, particularly Andrzej Dobber, and for Simone Young.

Jose Mª. Irurzun

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