Giuseppe Verdi, libretto by Francesco Maria Pavé
Teatro Galli di Rimini
Teatro Amintore Galli, Rimini, Italy

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Aroldo Credit: Diego Gasperoni
Aroldo Credit: Diego Gasperoni
Aroldo Credit: Diego Gasperoni

A new opera house opened in Rimini in 1857 and premièred Giuseppe Verdi’s Aroldo. The audience was more excited by the building than they were by the opera.

The opera house was bombed during World War II and remained in ruins for the next 75 years. Now rebuilt to its former glory, it is streaming Aroldo in a production by Emilio Sala and Edoardo Sanchi. The conductor is Manlio Benzi.

Aroldo is a reworking of Verdi’s Stiffelio which had run into difficulties with the censors and Verdi was not pleased with the cuts and rewrites. Knowing it would never be performed as he wanted it to be performed, he wrote Aroldo.

Stiffelio is set in early 19th century Germany and the hero is a Protestant priest. Aroldo is set in England and Scotland circa 1200 and Aroldo is a crusader. The present production is set during World War II in Mussolini’s Italy and Aroldo is a soldier returning from the fighting in Africa. Like the priest and the crusader, he, too, discovers his wife has been unfaithful during his absence.

Mina deeply regrets her adultery. The role requires incredible vocal, physical and moral strength. Lidia Fridman has all three. She is a force to be reckoned with. Aroldo loves his wife dearly and suffers too. His role requires a dramatic voice and Antonio Corianò provides it. Michele Govi is Mini’s father and he feels the family dishonour most keenly.

The interaction between the three of them, acted out on a darkened stage, is impressive. Verdi constantly raises the stakes and there is some exciting singing. The opera ends with reconciliation and forgiveness. (Aroldo has to be reminded he is a Christian and forgiveness is what Christians do.)

The critics, inevitably, have always dismissed Aroldo as warmed-up Stiffelio. It has never been popular and is rarely staged today. But at the opera house in Rimini, the orchestra, the lead singers and the chorus prove it has viability and that it well deserves to be revived more often.

The Rimini production can be watched free online on the OperaStreaming channel. OperaStreaming offers a seasonal program of video broadcasts, freely available on YouTube, from the Opera Theatres of Emilia-Romagna (Bologna, Piacenza, Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, Ferrara Ravenna and Rimini).

Reviewer: Robert Tanitch

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