Honour is at stake in Verdi’s powerful opera Ernani, which features a surfeit of rich, rounded and redolent performances. The music is superb, rousing from the magnificent opening chorus number (with many more to follow), not to overlook a series of emotional arias. The first half, in particular, I found strikingly impactful.
The action takes place in Spain in 1519. Don Juan of Aragon has lost his title and wealth. Now going by the name Ernani (Diego Torre), he leads a heady bunch of bandits. They can tell, though, that he is out of sorts and that has to do with the fact that there are obstacles in the way of his love for Elvira (Natalie Aroyan) and hers for him. You see, she is being forced into a marriage with her uncle, Don Ruy Gomez de Silva (Alexander Vinogradov). So, Ernani enacts a daring plan to rescue Elvira from Silva’s castle.
As the previous description attests, Elvira is a woman many men are drawn to, not the least of whom is Don Carlo, the King of Spain (Vladimir Stoyanov). He, too, declares his love for her, but then tries to abduct her. She tries to protect herself by grabbing a knife, which is when Ernani bursts in … before Silva also enters. What a tangled web we weave. Complications abound. Suffice to say that a pledge Ernani makes to Silva will seal the former’s fate.
Ernani the opera has Greek tragedy written all over it. I found it intriguing, captivating and most exciting to watch. The permutations and combinations require concentration to follow. Most of all, though, as I indicated earlier, I adored the music. The stirring chorus numbers really got my blood pumping. The solos, duets and tercets showcase the immense on-stage talent involved in this production.
I was taken by the depth of tenor Diego Torre’s representation as Ernani. I couldn’t look away. Soprano Natalie Aroyan mesmerises as Elvira. Operatic bass Alexander Vinogradov, as Silva, speaks volumes with his facial expressions as well as his extraordinary musical prowess that captivated the opening night audience. Baritone Vladimir Stoyanov, too, commands attention as the King of Spain.
The striking set design by Julian Crouch and detailed period costuming by Kevin Pollard undoubtedly add to the lavish theatrical experience. Just marvellous. And special mention must go to the Opera Australia Chorus, Orchestra Victoria and flamboyant conductor Carlo Montanaro who make the experience one to remember. Ernani is playing at State Theatre, Arts Centre Melbourne until 22nd May 2021.
Other reviews you might enjoy:
- Aida (Opera Australia) – opera review
- Idomeneo (Victorian Opera and Opera Australia) – opera review
- Lohengrin (Opera Australia) – opera review
Alex First is a Melbourne based journalist and communications specialist. He contributes to The Blurb on film and theatre.