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Giovanna D'arco DVD
Giovanna D'arco

Giovanna D'arco

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Verdi: Giovanna D'Ar Chailly/Netrebko

On current form, it's hard to think of a better Verdi soprano-tenor pairing than Anna Netrebko and Francesco Meli. Their voices share many good things: enough power to fill a big space like La Scala without hint of strain, creamy smoothness of tone across the whole register, excellent control over the dynamics and phrasing that allows them to add colour and meaning to a line. Meli's voice has a hint of added grit: he can sound dangerous rather than just a bel canto smoothie. Netrebko seems to get better every year at singing her words with feeling rather than mere histrionics.

But the stand-out number of the evening came from neither Meli nor Netrebko but from Carlos Álvarez, in the role of Giovanna's father Giacomo. His recitative and aria “Ecco il loco ... Speme al vecchio,” sung in Reims as he awaits the moment in which he will publicly accuse his own daughter of witchcraft, was a masterpiece of the Verdi baritone's art: ardent, smooth, full of pathos. I could cavil that Álvarez's voice is a shade too smooth for the role (more a Count di Luna than a grizzled old man) but that aria took my breath away.

The problem with Giovanna d'Arco is that the drama doesn't stand up to scrutiny. The whole story turns on Giovanna's refusal to defend herself from Giacomo's accusation, apparently on the pitifully thin grounds that because she momentarily contemplated earthly love with king Carlo (a contemplation that remains unconsummated), she disobeyed her angelic voices and therefore deserves earthly punishment. We all know that Giovanna is going to die and go to heaven and Temistocle Solera's libretto never gives enough substance to make her dilemma credible, so it's difficult to sustain any real dramatic interest in any of the second half of the opera.

During copyright discussions, Solera denied that his libretto was based on the Schiller play – a denial generally disregarded today – and I shall now have to read the Schiller to make up my own mind. In advance of that, for a dramatic take on the Joan of Arc story, give me George Bernard Shaw's St Joan any day. But I can't ask for a more wonderful evening's playing and singing of Verdi.

Title: Giovanna D'arco
Genre: Classical Artists
Starring: Anna Netrebko
Studio: Decca
Release Date: 6/15/2018
Product Type: DVD
UPC: 044007439678
Item #: 2047936X

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