Luisa Miller: Colaneri brings love of Verdi to Luisa Miller guest conducting role


Joseph Colaneri

Lauren Hutchison | Staff Writer

For one night only, opera fans have the chance to see the Chautauqua debut of Giuseppe Verdi’s rarely-performed work, Luisa Miller. The Chautauqua Opera will perform the work in Italian with English subtitles. Maestro Joseph Colaneri will conduct members of the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra at 8:15 p.m. Saturday in the Amphitheater.

A self-professed Verdi lover, Colaneri last conducted Luisa Miller in 2001 with the Metropolitan Opera. At Chautauqua, he’s conducted several operas, including last year’s production of Vincenzo Bellini’s Norma and Verdi’s Macbeth in 2002.

“I’m happiest when I’m immersed in (Verdi’s) works, because they’re so dramatic; they’re so human, and the characters are so real,” Colaneri said. “He can do, with musical notes, things that would evoke just about any human emotion. … We hear the music and know just what the character’s feeling, without words.”

Luisa Miller’s orchestra serves a dual function as accompaniment and as a character who comments on the plot, Colaneri said. The orchestra includes parts for organ, one reason why the Amp, and its Massey Memorial Organ, is a perfect venue for Luisa Miller.

Each Verdi opera features an “instrumental color,” Colaneri said. In Luisa Miller, this color is provided by CSO principal clarinetist Eli Eban in a part that Colaneri called “a real tour de force.”

The opera also features two bass vocalists in title roles and includes a duet between them, which is uncommon in opera. The bass voices create a dark and somber tone in the music, Colaneri said.

Because the opera is based on a German play and set in 17th century Tyrol, which is now part of Austria, Verdi scored the opera with Beethoven and the German symphonic school in mind, omitting bass drum and cymbals, Colaneri said.

Though Luisa Miller is one of Verdi’s earlier works, audiences can hear stylistic choices that are echoed again in later works.

“There are things about it that will remind you (of Rigoletto),” Colaneri said. “Verdi was always influencing himself, as all great artists do. You will hear things in Luisa Miller that you will hear ‘Aha, when you get to Otello, there’s that same idea.’”

Colaneri said he expects Chautauqua audiences to fall in love with Luisa Miller.

“I think they will be taken by the drama and the pathos and the wonderful music, and the way that music merges with the drama,” he said. “And the cast is wonderful.”