Europa Riconosciuta reviewed.
7 Dec-15 Jan 2004. Conducted by Riccardo Muti, directed by Luca Ronconi, with Diana Damrau, Desire Rancatore, Genia Kuhmeier, Giuseppe Sabbatini. Just over 226 years after La Scala opened with Antonio Salieris specially-composed opera Europa riconosciuta, Riccardo Muti has chosen a new production of this same opera to open the theatre after its three-year $49 million restoration.
Salieri composed the opera when he was 28, eight years after his debut on the opera scene. It has a typically 17th-century narrative structure, but it is musically innovative. The chorus plays an important role as an integral part of action in which the whole cast takes part, not just the singers.
It is not a masterpiece, but contains some good music and beautiful moments, such as the quintet in the first act, and some impressive participation by the choir. The arias are long and difficult and require the singers to reach very acute notes. Diana Damrau, Dsire Rancatore, Genia Khmeier, Daniela Barcellona and Giuseppe Sabbatini give their best, but their voices are not weighty enough and reveal several technical problems.
However the public gave them a warm applause at the opening and an even greater one for conductor Riccardo Muti, who coaxed a beautiful sound from the orchestra clean, light and elegant and guided the singers with resonance, at times vibrant and at times languid, according to the requirements of the scene.
The production, directed by Luca Ronconi, carries the signature of Pier Luigi Pizzi for the set design and costumes. The stage is empty at the beginning but in the course of the performance it fills with ships, stairs, statues of horses, and at the end it is closed by an enormous mirror that reflects the entire hall of the theatre so that the protagonists become La Scala itself and its audience. Paolo Di Nicola