Stiffelio (from The Royal Opera House)

2010 (2008, 1993)
Distributed by Films Media Group, 132 West 31st St., 17th Floor, New York, NY 10001; 800-257-5126
Producer n/a
Directed by Elijah Moshinsky
DVD, color, 2 hrs. 2 min.
Sr. High - Adult
Opera, Verdi


Reviewed by Gerald Notaro, University Librarian, Nelson Poynter Memorial Library, University of South Florida, St. Petersburg

Recommended   
 
Date Entered: 4/22/2011

Verdi’s Stiffelio was born of controversy and even now continues as a source of debate among opera aficionados. The narrative of a Protestant minister who forgives his wife’s adultery was too steamy for Italy in the 1850’s, and was thought lost until the 1970’s. Even now it is rarely performed. This 1993 production from the Royal Opera House (Covent Garden) changes the setting from Europe to America. The scenery (Michael Yeargan) and costumes are appropriately stoic and puritanical. Lighting design is more theatrical than operatic, a palpable advantage for a filmed staging. Leads Jose Carreras and Catherine Malfitano create characters an audience can believe and care for. Their experiences, as both actors and singers, demonstrate that Stiffelio deserves the second look it is getting. Gwynne Howell, Robin Leggate, and particularly Gregory Yurisch as Mina’s father are equally stellar. Edward Downes’ conducting is musically and dramatically outstanding, worthy of any Verdi masterwork. Bringing opera to film can be dicey, but both stage director Elijah Moshinsky and video director Brian Large have breathed new visual life into Stiffelio. The moral tale is deceivingly simple, still giving the patient viewer a worthy ride. Some consider Stiffelio a minor oddity, others a close link to his later masterworks. Either way, it is worth owning the DVD of this performance. Public performance rights are included in this release.