Luisa Miller at Stuttgart

The performance of Verdi’s Luisa Miller at the Stuttgart Oper was a revival of a production mounted in 2010 and it revealed again the power of this work, with its intense musical content and compact dramatic structure. The conductor Marco Cumin, yet another young Italian maestro making his mark in Germany, provided an energetic, idiomatic reading of the score. And there was a strong team of soloists with voices capable of meeting all the demands of Verdi’s writing. Dmytro Popov has good looks, an imposing stage presence and acting skills to accompany his powerful tenor. As Rodolfo, vocally and dramatically he exerted just the right amount of diffidence to show that he is really a cad. With his sonorous declamations, the Polish bass Adam Palka projected the inner torment as well as the evil character of Count Walter. The veteran Wagnerian Attila Jun was sufficiently sinister as Wurm without overplaying the part. While Evez Abdulla’s warm baritone could provide all that was necessary for the sympathetic, daughter-loving dimension to his personality, it could also rise in defiance to lament the fate of the peasant population, as victims of their tyrannical masters. I had mixed feelings about Adina Aaron in the title role. Vocally she had some very good moments, especially when spinning out a pianissimo in the upper voice and some not-so-good moments, as she lunged upwards in anguish or in passion. And dramatically she seemed unable to convey convincingly the complexities of Luisa’s dilemma. I suspect this was because the original director Markus Dietz had not been available to work on this revival and in consequence it had lost some of its sharpness of detail. Although the production was basically effective, it occasionally erred by unnecessarily underlining dramatic visual images. In places, too, it was not kind to the singers, for example, by requiring Walter to engage in an awkward and distracting buttoning-up of his corset while singing some significant phrases. But, particularly on the musical side, the pluses of the performance definitely outweighed the minuses.