The Met did LUISA with Milnes, Caballe that was light and beautiful. They were all brilliant. The current LUISA from The Met on PBS was awfully dark and dowdy---almost like they were different Opera's. Nonetheless LUISA is a masterpiece as well even if presented in an opaque way. Fredrich Schiller was a great resource for Verdi with GIOVANNA D'ARCO (Maid of Orleans) Don Carlo and Luisa Miller, all before working with Arrigo Boito.

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Thanks Daniel - you remember this little chat?


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Aug 8, 2021Liked by Opera Daily

This brought back pleasant memories. Like most people, we had never heard of "Luisa Miller," when we had tickets for it several years ago at Venice's venerable "La Fenice" opera house. About halfway through, everyone in the opera house except us loudly gasped. I asked, in my fractured Italian, the man in front of me in the box and he shook his head and said something with "Maestro" in it and pointed down at the conductor. The conductor looked up and threw both his hands in the air and shrugged, and started over. He had started several seconds too early, and everyone in the opera house except us knew that obscure opera extremely well. Conclusion: No one know opera better than the Italians.

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I love this story! Isn't it a beautiful opera? I am embarrassed to say that I often forget about it and then I am reminded and can't stop listening. Thank you for sharing and yes, the Italian know their stuff! :-)

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The complexity of the libretto with Church and State issues add to the challenge of appreciating LUISA as well.

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Aug 23, 2021Liked by Opera Daily

I didn’t listen to the music posted on August 8 in Opera Daily, although I planned to. I didn’t finish reading Alex Ross’s article in “The New Yorker “(“Verdi’s Grip” https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2001/09/24/verdis-grip), but eventually, I will. Instead, there was something about your remarks on Giuseppe Verdi’s “Luisa Miller”, and Daniel Quinn’s comments in response, that prompted me to go straight for the music.

YouTube only featured the audio recording of the Metropolitan Opera’s 1975 “Luisa Miller” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L3o68f_OATA&t=3572s) with its headshots of Montserrat Caballé, Luciano Pavarotti, Sherrill Milnes and Bonaldo Giaiotti. Though disappointed, I decided to create a game out of listening to the Met recording, using the plot information in “Opera Daily”. I challenged myself to see if I could pinpoint the emotions conveyed by Verdi’s music, without understanding the Italian. As the recording played, I jotted down several words that came to mind: tenderness, imperiousness, pleading, sadness and anger. WhiIe the first third of the opera seemed a bit dull, I felt the music grew more beautiful and complex throughout the rest of the recording.

After this modest experiment, I tested my auditory perceptions by watching the full opera, with English subtitles, by the Teatro Reggio di Parma (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xjNsnQ3imUY - August 16, 2020). This time I also had a detailed synopsis under my belt (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luisa_Miller). As I listened and watched, I was pleased to confirm that my five little words were on point.

I’ve been thinking a lot about why I enjoyed “Luisa Miller” nearly two centuries since it became a Verdi hit. For one thing, as a non-musician, I marvel at how a great composer like Verdi harnessed the language of music, and its inherently evocative power, to tell the story that the librettist puts into words. When the orchestral music, the story, the performers and the stagecraft are successfully married the characters onstage come alive. Classical opera demands that we experience emotions on a visceral level, that we feel what it means to be human. Why else would “Luisa Miller” move me to tears?

Social mores around love, marriage and social class vary across cultures but audience members everywhere can relate to the dilemmas faced by this protagonist who became entangled in a web of deceit. In the beginning, Luisa Miller is just a young woman in love with Carlo, a man who presented himself to her as a commoner, but who was actually Rodolfo, the son of a nobleman, Count Walter. This deception proved to be her undoing. Except for her father Miller, one character after another manipulated her in accordance with their self-interests. As the play unfolds Luisa Miller’s interactions mirror different facets of love – innocent, filial, devoted, deceptive, jealous, unrequited, loyal, sacrificial and, in the end, deadly.

The juxtaposition of honor and dishonor is also a main theme. Miller defended his daughter after the powerful Walter insulted her. He denied her hand in marriage to the treacherous Wurm. Rodolfo threatened to blackmail his father by revealing a family secret about how he acquired power and wealth.

The evil machinations of the aptly named Wurm reminded me of Scarpia in Puccini’s “Tosca”. Wurm concocted a cruel scheme to win Luisa for himself, just as Scarpia schemed to have his way with Tosca. Both used a ruse involving a document written or signed in the beleaguered woman's own hand. Each woman was unaware she was being manipulated. In fact, each thought she was setting an imprisoned loved one free.

Wurm forced Luisa to renounce her love for Rodolfo in order to free her father from Walter’s prison. She endured even more humiliation when Wurm made her write a letter to confess falsely that she never loved Rodolfo, and only wanted his status and wealth. Those were the very goals that led Wurm and Walter to achieve their ambitions by their plot to deceive Rodolfo about Luisa’s fidelity. Wurm lusted after Luisa, but Walter saw her only as “an inconvenient woman” who stood in the way of his plans for his son. He ruthlessly duped Rodolfo into marrying the widowed Duchess Federica as an act of revenge against Luisa. One of the more heartrending scenes in the opera was when Federica challenged Luisa's confession, as though she intuited it wasn’t true. The opera ends in a tragic murder-suicide. The only satisfaction Rodolfo and Luisa derived, after all they went through, was learning the truth from each other and dying together in the end.

“Luisa Miller” is a morality tale about how external players and unforeseen circumstances can send a romance sideways. Whether one enters an arranged marriage in India, follows a matchmaker’s recommendation in Israel, or plans a royal wedding, social, political, familial and financial considerations are always in play for a young couple in love. Their ability to go their own way will largely depend on whether they or others are pulling those strings.

Are we in America more fortunate because courtship nowadays can begin with swiping left or right on a dating app, hooking up is no whoop, and many of us remain single and mingle for a lifetime without condemnation? Building and sustaining committed relationships is hard everywhere, but it’s amazing that here in our country where starter marriages abound, second marriages are a thing and one in three marriages ends in divorce, love still finds a way. I tried to judge Giuseppe Verdi’s “Luisa Miller” on its own merits, but my 21st century biases and perspectives just won’t be denied.

I am convinced that great opera derives its universal appeal from a unique ability to make audiences feel the emotions underlying the dilemmas, experiences, changes and outcomes that the characters approximate onstage. This is the great gift of opera, and perhaps the raison d’être of every aspiring opera composer, opera singer and opera fan.


*To enhance my understanding of this opera, I looked up Johann Christoph Friedrich (von) Schiller (Friedrich Schiller), 1759-1805, described as “a German poet, philosopher, historian, and dramatist”, comparable to William Shakespeare in terms of his influence in classical German literature (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Friedrich_Schiller#Early_life_and_career).

*Verdi must have loved his plays because he adapted several for the opera. “Kabale und Liebe” inspired “Luisa Miller”(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intrigue_and_Love; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luisa_Miller ), and is also a 1959 East German film (https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0052955/).

*Schiller’s “Die magd von Orleans” (The Maid of Orleans) (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Maid_of_Orleans_(play)) was the source for Verdi’s “Giovanna d'Arco" (1845). Two of his other operas -”Don Carlos” (1867) and “Don Carlo” (1884) showed how much Verdi revered Schiller (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Don_Carlos_(play).

*The person who posted the “Luisa Miller” 1975 Metropolitan Opera audio recording listed of these arias in “Luisa Miller”:

"T'amo d'amor ch'esprimere mal tenterebbe il detto!"

"Padre ... M'abbraccia ... Portator son io"

"Duchessa tu m'appelli!"

"Sciogliere i levrieri"

"Del Conte di Walter figlio

"Fra'mortali ancora oppressa"

"Tu puniscimi, O Signore"

"Egli delira; sul mattin degli anni"

"Il foglio dunque? ... Io tutto già vi narrai”


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"I am convinced that great opera derives its universal appeal from a unique ability to make audiences feel the emotions underlying the dilemmas, experiences, changes and outcomes that the characters approximate onstage. This is the great gift of opera, and perhaps the raison d’être of every aspiring opera composer, opera singer and opera fan." ❣️❣️❣️❣️❣️❣️❣️

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Aug 23, 2021Liked by Opera Daily

Look at how far we've come together! 😀🥂

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