'Verdi - Giovanna d'Arco' [Decca Classics]
(Anna Netrebko, Francesco Meli, Carlos Álvarez, et al / DVD / NR / 2018 / Decca Classics)
Overview: 'Giovanna d'Arco' is the inaugural production of Riccardo Chailly’s era as Music Director and the first performance of the opera at La Scala for over 150 years.
DVD Verdict: Released on DVD this past June 15th, 2018 via Decca Classics, this new production of Teatro alla Scala, 'Giovanna d’Arco' – composed in 1844, after Ernani but before Macbeth – has always split its audiences opinions.
Some have thought that it represents Verdi at his most sophisticated, others that it doesn't come close to ranking high on the list of his best output within his early years.
The bulk of the, at times heavy plot is far from historically correct, as I'm sure you all know by now. In Verdi's opera, his Joan of Arc dies of wounds sustained in a victorious battle against the English. Add to that a completely fictional, but no less dramatic, focus on Joan’s romantic relations to Charles VII (let alone her conflict with her skeptical shepherd father), and, well, you get the picture.
The role of Carlo VII is undertaken here by Francesco Meli, one of many pretenders to Plácido Domingo’s tenorial crown. He sings firmly, but without much distinctive character, for my money, but that said, he still manages to get his stern points of coda across.
However, and again, in my humble opinion, Anna Netrebko’s Giovanna is the stand out gem here throughout. This greatly talented, but infuriatingly erratic Russian soprano runs true to form, being somewhat all over the place in the early scenes – her rhythmic and pitch imprecision almost derailing the duet with Charles – before striking form in the second act.
The supporting cast is adequate, and with Paolo Carignani wielding a firm baton, there is lively playing from Munich’s radio orchestra and exuberant singing from a Viennese chorus.
Anna Netrebko - Giovanna
Francesco Meli - Carlo VII
Carlos Álvarez - Giacomo
Michele Mauro - Delil
Dmitry Beloselskiy - Talbot
Coro e Orchestra del Teatro alla Scala
Moshe Leiser & Patrice Caurier (production)
This is a Full Screen Presentation (1.33:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.