Luisa Miller at Lyric Opera of Chicago.

A Blaze of Excitement: The Joys of Early Verdi

Lyric is about to move into an area of the repertoire that will be full of special discoveries for our audience – the earlier operas of the great Giuseppe Verdi. Beginning next season, Lyric introduces a new generation of attendees to the glories of works that aren’t encountered as often as they deserve and offer listeners immense rewards.

Luisa Miller at Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Starting the early-Verdi series next season will be the magnificent: Luisa Miller (1849), making its eagerly awaited return to Lyric after nearly four decades. This opera is actually something of a bridge between early Verdi and what we think of as “middle period” Verdi (the era that began with Rigoletto two years later). Luisa Miller exemplifies all the qualities that make the first decade of Verdi operas so totally memorable – dramatic power, intriguing relationships, and above all, astounding musical beauty, originality, and vitality.

Based on a play by Friedrich Schiller, the opera presents Luisa, a village girl who loves a young man known to her as Carlo. He loves her, too, but he’s actually Rodolfo, whose father is the local lord, Count Walter. Walter won’t hear of his son marrying Luisa – he wants Rodolfo to marry a wealthy widow, Duchess Federica. And meanwhile, there’s Wurm, Walter’s steward, who wants to marry Luisa himself.  It’s Wurm’s villainous machinations that set the plot in motion toward its devastatingly tragic conclusion.

Every number in this opera is a highlight. Rodolfo’s despairing soliloquy in Act Two (when he falsely believes that Luisa has betrayed him) is one of the most celebrated of all tenor arias in Verdi. Luisa has two captivating arias, and then there’s her extraordinary duet with Miller (get the handkerchiefs out for that one – it’s unforgettably beautiful and moving); the rip-roaring Walter/Wurm scene, one of opera’s few duets for two basses; and an Act One finale that ranks with the greatest of all Verdi’s ensembles.

Lyric is presenting a spectacular cast, led by three artists whose successes at Lyric include triumphs in Verdi – Bulgarian soprano Krassimira Stoyanova (title role), Maltese tenor Joseph Calleja (Rodolfo), and American baritone Quinn Kelsey (Miller). Joining them will be Christan Van Horn (Walter), Alisa Kolosova (Federica), and the debuting Soloman Howard (Wurm), in a stirring production by Francesca Zambello, conducted by Verdi and bel canto specialist Enrique Mazzola. We’re hugely excited to welcome Luisa Miller back to Lyric. Join us for the start of what is sure to be a thrilling journey into early Verdi!

LUISA MILLER

Lyric’s first presentation of this electrifying work in more than three decades will be a feast for all devotees of Verdi and Italian opera. Luisa Miller opens October 12.

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Production owned by San Francisco Opera. Scenery construction and painting by the San Francisco Opera Scenic Shop and costumes fabricated by the San Francisco Opera Costume Shop.

Photos: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera