Giuseppe Verdi’s Opera Il Corsaro or The Pirate is a swashbuckling, romantic tale, based on Byron’s poem of the same name. It’s an unusual, lesser known Verdi opera with two pirates protagonists, (rather than incidental villains) as well as two striking soprano heroines. In the extraordinarily beautiful surroundings of the Teatro Municipale, Piacenza, this dark drama of desperate lovers and stormy seas is brought to life by a cast of world class singers.
Premiered at the Teatro Grande in Trieste, 1848, Il Corsaro was poorly received by critics and public at the time, and with Verdi himself showing little interest, it almost disappeared from his canon, not performed in London until 1966. Director Matteo Beltrami with set -designer, Marco Capuana have created a clean, elegant production where the voices are given space to breath and tantalising glimpses of Verdi’s later works emerge.
Tenor, Ivan Ayon Rivas plays Corrado, captain of the pirates, exiled on a Greek Island with his beloved, Medora played by Serena Gamberoni. Receiving news of his departure to fight the Turkish Pasha, Seid, Medora wanders through the darkness in her white gown, her fragile sensibility predicting tragedy ahead. Despite her mis-givings, Corrado cannot be dissuaded and Act two takes us to Pasha’s Harem in the Turkish city of Corone where we meet Gulnara, Seid’s favourite slave, played by Roberta Mantegna. The monochrome set with huge sails shifts to change scenes, and the womens’ costumes bring a burst of colour to the stage as Mantegna’s rich vocal tones speak of her passion and fury at her captor. Finally we meet her master Seid, played by baritone, Simone Piazzola.
There is no doubt, the portrayal of the tyrannical Muslim is a difficult part to drag out of the stereoptypes of it’s day, though, showing the men at prayer before the battle went some way to suggest a spiritual side to a somewhat two dimensional villain. Theatrically, there is no great clash of personality between the two men, the real drama saved for the final denoument back in Greece.
The highlight of the evening was undoubtedly the stunning trio which ends the opera. Here the two sopranos, both suffering their own agonies, yet accepting each without spite sing with Corrado in a musical expression of shared humanity. The two sopranos, compliment each other beautifully. Medora, sung in a lighter more lyrical style to suit her delicate character, and Gulnara, a richer fuller sound with a colourful palette that takes her from passion to violence and from slavery to freedom, against the odds. Matteo Beltrami has brought together a cast of outstanding vocalists who breath life into this lesser known Verdi opera.
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