Luisa Miller, Opera by G. Verdi
Giuseppe Verdi wrote Luisa Miller under contractual pressure and without much willingness or inspiration. The great composer had set his heart on a politically charged project that would give Italians hope and nurture their patriotism after the political unrest of 1848. Naples’ censors, however, were not receptive to such incendiary subjects. Therefore, Verdi and librettist Salvatore Cammarano settled for an adaptation of Friedrich Schiller’s play Kabale und Liebe (or Intrigue and Love). Devoid of revolutionary themes, Luisa Miller was premiered at Teatro San Carlo in Naples on 8 December 1849, to favourable reviews. Verdi’s 15th opera now comes to Rome’s Teatro Costanzi.
Working on Luisa Miller, Verdi was increasingly frustrated with the censors and made a vow to never produce another opera in Naples – a promise to himself which he indeed kept. Compared to Schiller’s original play, Cammarano’s libretto stood almost as a new literary work. It placed the focus firmly on the personal stories and the human-interest side of the narrative, without any social or class commentary. What it lacked in storytelling depth, however, the opera more than made up in emotional charge. Luisa Miller features some of Verdi’s most ferocious arias and duets, and his inventive and adept orchestration signifies a new creative stage that many musical critics hail as a high point in the composer’s career.
The plot of Luisa Miller, as that of many other tragic operas, is driven by love and deception. Luisa Miller is in love with Carlo, who is in fact Rodolfo, Count Walter’s son. Luisa’s father and the Count each have different marriage plans for their children and disapprove of their union. The inevitable confrontation leads to the Millers’ arrest. Rodolfo intervenes, threatening to expose Count Walter’s dark secret if Luisa isn’t freed. Luisa, in turn, must make a difficult choice in order to save her father’s life as he awaits his execution in prison. Intrigue and love, as in Schiller’s original title, combine into an explosive and tragic story that Verdi dresses in beautiful music on the stage of the Rome Opera House.