Perhaps this is not the best "Le Villi" imaginable, but it is very good. Of the two video versions now available on disc, this one from the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino (MMF) is vastly preferable. A word of caution: as so often happens on the AMAZOO, it seems that reviews of the competing "Le Villi" from Taormina have gotten mixed in with reviews of this much superior MMF production. This is, of course, not the fault of the my fellow reviewers, but read carefully to see if singers not in this MMF production are mentioned, a sure sign that AMAZON has goofed yet again.
First, Maria-Teresa Leva, the lead soprano, is MUCH steadier of voice than is Halla Margret in the Taormina production. Perhaps in Act I Leva is a bit mature-sounding to be absolutely believable as the ingenue Anna, but this becomes an advantage as her role turns more stentorian in Act II. Tenor Leonardo Caimi is also very good. Baritone Elia Fabbian is a little dry-voiced, but OK. Some of conductor Marco Angius’ tempi are a little broader than one is accustomed to, but not shockingly so, and the orchestra is excellent.
The MMF production is stylized and minimal, and looks like it’s been “updated” to no later than the 1980’s, but it works (any later, and a cellphone could have solved the communication problem between the tenor and soprano). In comparison, the Taormina production looks provincial--one feels sorry for the Guglielmo, who looks ridiculous in his ill-fitting wig.
In MMF, for once, the Villis (vengeful spirits of girls who have been jilted by their lovers) look truly sinister in their topless black costumes. This could have degenerated into voyeuristic closeups, but instead, at stage distance and in semi-darkness, the female dancers look wild and edgy, giving off sort of a “bacchante” vibe. In the Villi’s first appearance, I liked the choreographer’s idea of introducing three hapless guys who stumble into their clutches--toying with these boys gives the girls something to do besides gesturing menacingly at no one in particular. This also neatly solves the problem of the final scene in which the Villis force the lead tenor to dance to his death. Here, the girls perform a cat-and-mouse totentanz with the boys they ensnared earlier, tacitly implying “You’re next, Roberto”, but in reality, relieving the tenor of having to dance himself out of breath. I could have done without the dance continuing behind Roberto’s Act II aria, but generally, the choreography here is more inventive and better integrated into the work as a whole than it is in either of the other two productions I’ve seen.
I also liked the idea of including the narrator in the action of Act I as the parish priest. This better integrates his speeches between the acts, which he delivers in character before the curtain, instead of the usual clumsy device of suddenly booming out of nowhere as a disembodied voice from a loudspeaker.
That third production I've seen is from the Teatro Comunale di Modena--a YouTube video, not (yet?) released on disc. As a whole, it offers perhaps the best vocal casting, although not by a wide margin, and the production is nice too look at. However, I found the costuming of the Willis sort of silly. The corps-de-ballet dresses out of “Giselle” are not inappropriate, but what’s with the doll masks lashed to the back of their heads (?!--ooh, scary!)-–and they don’t do much real dancing, either.
For me, if one is looking for a decently-sung video of Puccini’s first opera in a production that doesn’t inflict regietheatre peversions on the original, this one from MMF is now first choice.
- Format: NTSC
- Language: German, English, French, Italian, Spanish
- Subtitles: English, German, French, Japanese
- Number of discs: 1
- Studio: Naxos Deutschland Musik & Video Vertriebs-GmbH / Poing
- DVD Release Date: 9 Aug 2019
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
- ASIN: B07T3JPPQZ