September 24, 2019
LUISA MILLER: The Director Speaks
It’s always exciting when a wonderful work returns to Lyric after a long absence, creating magic onstage for a whole new generation of operagoers. Not since 1982 has Lyric produced Giuseppe Verdi’s glorious Luisa Miller, but now it’s back at last, in a production by one of the world’s most highly respected directors, Francesca Zambello.
In a note for Lyric’s program, Zambello praises Luisa Miller for the “tremendous force and color” of the music. She speaks about the characters in the early Verdi operas as “very sharp and strong, which makes them exciting to play.” For her, the village girl Luisa, in love with the nobly born Rodolfo, is “one of Verdi’s great heroines” and “a girl of enormous strength.” Luisa’s feelings for Rodolfo, the man she’s in love with, “will not be shaken, and her love for her father is even more fierce. Verdi was drawn over and over to these intense father-daughter relationships, but Luisa stands apart in her willingness to fight for her father, to make the ultimate sacrifice.”
In Luisa Miller, says the director, Verdi is “painting with bold strokes, and I wanted to do the same thing with this production, contrasting the pastoral, idyllic world of Luisa and her father with the noble world. I think people move differently in these kinds of environments. In our production, the peasants are very real, but when we move into the world of the Count [Rodolfo’s father], it’s a series of postures, as if everyone is always striking a pose. It is a world where Luisa is completely at sea.”
Zambello notes that in Luisa Miller, Verdi’s fifteenth opera, “it’s as if we see a talented young composer fully growing into his powers as we move from Act One, which is quite direct, to Act Two, where we begin to see more texture and complexity of character. And Act Three feels to me like an arrival – it is a truly great play wedded to great melodies.”
The director concludes that “although we no longer live in a literal world of princes and peasants, the class warfare at the heart of Luisa Miller feels very contemporary to me, which makes the opera’s tragic ending extraordinarily moving. I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to revisit the production here in Chicago with our terrific cast.”