alla prima crociata".. is the full title of this rarely performed opera by Giuseppe Verdi, with a l.ibretto by Temistocle Solera loosely based on the long, very long,and epic poem by Tommaso Grossi.
And therein lies the crux.
What, undoubtedly, was evident in the epic's storyline, just becomes very disjointed,
and confusing as an opera. Perhaps, if all the singers are phenomenal ....but even then.
I truly believe this is ONE Verdi opera that would be better performed in a concert version with outstanding singers and instrumental soloists.
Verdi has written some lovely lyrical music, some great soli, well constructed choral pieces and - huge surprise a long and beautiful violin solo in the 4th act.
Several other, shorter solo pieces for f.i. flute also appear throughout the opera.
There are written into the piece 11, yes 11 scene changes divided among the 4 acts.
That fact, too, makes for the rarity of performances..and so it should be!
I am most willing to hear a pure concert version with excellent casts and soloists, again.
But spare me another staged version.
The most notable singer of this cast at the Sarasota Opera was the
Puerto Rican tenor Rafael Davila who sang Oronte, son of Acciano of Antioch who falls in love with Giselda. His big gleaming tenor voice, warm pronunciation and great projection, made him a joy to hear, even with the - in my opinion- less than perfect acoustics of the house.
HERE is a video clip of Davila.
Second came bass Kevin Short as Pagano, the patricide and abductor of his brother's wife. Short sang expressively with a a rich bass. A familiar voice to me as he sang at HGO in Carmen as Escamillo!
Abla Lynn Hamza as Giselda, daughter of Arvino, captive of Acciano and beloved of Oronte, was quite good in this, vocally rather demanding, role.
Others: Tenor Mathew Edwardsen as Arvino, Soprano Lindsay Lohse as Viclinda, Benjamin Gelfand as Pirro and Sarah Larsen as Sofia filled their roles dedicatedly and with acceptable talents. The chorus men outdid the chorus women in beauty and big sound.
Staging was ...unimpressive, the costumes dated to the times of the 1. crusade, we are asked to believe.
The Orchestra under the guidance of Victor DeRenzi did rather a good job, the soloists were quite good.
Sarasota Opera is in the process of performing ALL of Verdi's operas in their original and revised versions. In the French or the Italian version, original and revised! Quite an undertaking, but commendable.
It gives young singers great opportunities to sing and point to rare roles in their Curriculum Vita Musicale!