Giuseppe Verdi's "I Vespri Siciliani" returns to La Scala in Milan after an absence of over thirty years, dating back the last edition to 1989.
This new La Scala production has been entrusted for direction, scenery and costumes to the expert hand of Argentinean director Hugo De Ana, who collaborated with Vinicio Cheli for the lighting design while Leda Lojodice choreographed the production.
De Ana chooses a setting of indefinite contemporaneity, staging the first two acts on wide open spaces in which first a cannon and then a tank are seen, which do not fail to fire to great scenic effect in the most agitated passages. Above you can see the theatre decks with their lights, while the scenery is framed by large, moving grey scenes, reminiscent of the walls of bunkers and casemates. An atmosphere of gloomy wartime oppression therefore, with the frequent use of coffins and funeral urns that appear and disappear as needed. Leading the dramaturgy are two silent characters inspired by Ingmar Bergman's 'The Seventh Seal': the figure of death and the crusader who play the well-known and deadly game of chess. They appear at the beginning and end of the play, as well as being silent and symbolic presences in almost every scene.
A halfway between symbolism and naturalism then, with extensive use of the tableaux vivants so beloved by the Argentine director. Of course, if the scenic impact is always captivating and pleasant, the whole soon suffers from monotony and repetitiveness, with the singers mostly motionless in traditional and predictable scenic poses. There is no lack of references to Sicily here and there, with religious symbols and a Crowned Saint, but these are merely decorations without real scenic relevance.
The French conquerors have the shapes of soldiers reminiscent of the Second World War, while the costumes of the Sicilian rebels do not escape a certain vagueness and a 19th-century Sicilian mannerism, up to the dressing of Duchess Elena, in black like a Santuzza ante litteram. The brief choreography by Leda Lojodice, the grand ball in the third act having been suppressed in this edition, is poorly amalgamated with the whole.
In short, an accurate mise-en-scène, even pleasant at times, with a profusion of means worthy of La Scala, but which never really illuminates the score or the dramaturgy behind Verdi's complex opera.
The same applies to the excellent singing company, in which all do their duty without, however, beyond the best intentions, perceiving that something extra that makes an evening at the opera complete and unforgettable.
Luca Micheletti is an excellent Guido di Monforte with a firm voice, precise fraseggio and appropriate accents, but he fails to lift himself from a certain vagueness that grips the entire production. The same can be said for the talented Marina Rebeka, who sings with finesse and propriety of accent, but is clearly penalised by the direction and an unfortunate costume. Simon Lim authoritatively portrays a Giovanni da Procida conceived as a conspiracy bureaucrat. While Matteo Lippi, who replaced the indisposed Piero Pretti at the last, convinces with a heroic and accurate singing line. All the supporting roles were excellent, among which Andrea Pellegrini's Sire di Bethune stood out for his sonority and accent.
A solid performance by the chorus conducted by Alberto Malazzi and the La Scala orchestra, under the baton of Fabio Luisi.
The theatre, which was also crowded with a large foreign audience, accorded much applause to all the performers.