This week on the Lyric Stage (9/17) , excerpts from Luisa Miller, one of the last operas of Giuseppe Verdi's early period, a time of development that led to his breakthrough with the threesome of Rigoletto, Traviata and Trovatore shortly after the premiere of Luisa Miller.
But to describe those early years of Verdi's composition as a "time of development" or to use his own term "the galley years", is to risk underrating these early operas. Luisa Miller is a wonderful opera. This is Verdi, after all, and he had a very high starting point from which his operas consistently got better until he reached the stratosphere with Otello and Falstaff.
A cast of great Verdi singers from the 1960's includes Anna Moffo, Carlo Bergonzi, Cornell MacNeil, Shirley Verrett, Giorgio Tozzi and Ezio Flagello, with Fausto Cleva conducting the RCA Italiana Opera Orchestra and Chorus.
The opera tells the story of the son of the Count Walter, Rodolfo, and his arranged marriage to his duchess cousin. However, he loves the poor country girl from the village, Luisa Miller, and disguises himself as a peasant in order to be with her. When his father the Count finds out, great lengths are taken to prevent the young lovers from being together. Lies and deceit abound and love is lost. Rodolfo thinks Luisa has betrayed him, so he tricks her and they drink poison, and then die together, but not before he realizes she was forced into the "betraying him" and that her fidelity never wavered.