LUISA MILLER by Giuseppe Verdi, directed by Jose Maria Condemi, conducted by Derek Bate (Canadian Opera Company). At the Four Seasons Centre (145 Queen West). To May 11. $60-$275, youth $20-$95. 416-363-8231. Rating: NN Rating: NNNNN
The song's fine but the drama's lacking in the Canadian Opera Company's staging of Giuseppe Verdi's Luisa Miller.
As in a number of Verdi operas, fathers and daughters figure prominently. The title character, a Tyrolean peasant, is caught between love for the nobleman Rodolfo and for her father, whose life is threatened by Rodolfo's father, Count Walter.
Then there's the villainous and appropriately named Wurm, who also loves Luisa, and the heiress Federica, who won't give up Rodolfo to another woman.
Verdi's music is full of big, expansive melodies, and it gets generally good playing under conductor Derek Bate (alternating with Richard Bradshaw). But director Jose Maria Condemi goes for a stand-and-deliver performance style that could work if the performers invested more drama in their characters.
The biggest offenders are the central figures, Serena Farnocchia as Luisa and Mikhail Agafonov as Rodolfo. Whether in agony or ecstasy, they offer the same character readings, not even suggesting, visually or vocally, sadness, joy or anger. Sorry, but emotional neutrality and lack of theatrical commitment don't work with Verdi.
The lower voices fare better. Alexander Marco-Buhrmester's Miller has some fire, while Phillip Ens's Wurm could have more. Burak Bilgili's Count Walter is an impressive figure of tyrannical power, but it's Larissa Kostyuk as Federica who, in her few scenes, best understands how to bring this opera to life.