A Coming Out for Verdi's Orphans

A COMING OUT FOR VERDI’S ORPHANS.

Classical Music

BY AUSTIN BAER

The Metropolitan Opera is reverberating with Verdi these days. Business as usual, you say? Not quite. Of the season’s six new productions, no fewer than three are of the peerless Giuseppe. Of the works so favored, two have never before been mounted at the Met. On December 2 the house unveils the early I Lombardi alia Prima Crociata {The Lombards in the First Crusade), What sense can be made of the story? Probably not much. Hinging on fratricide, it is as action-crammed as it is messy. No more so, however, than other operas in which the towering emotional truth of song carries all before it—and that is what we can hope for from a cast led by Luciano Pavarotti, Aprile Millo, anti Samuel Ramey, under the baton of James Levine. Levine presided, too, over the October premiere of Stijfelio, starring Placido Domingo as a man of the cloth whose gospel of forgiveness is put to the test by his wife’s infidelity. Daring in its time, the opera ran afoul of the censors and disappeared, not to resurface until the 1960s. Leading Verdians account it the master’s most unjustly neglected score, but recent history tells its own tale. Despite committed advocates, the opera has still not caught on. Maybe this time ... A PBS telecast on December 27 will afford home audiences a chance to judge for themselves. Third in line, an urgently needed fresh look at Otello, in March. (Met box office: 212-362-6000.)

WINNIE KLOTZ

Set designs for the Metropolitan Opera’s I Lombardi