But it all starts with that genius conductor Riccardo Muti and his quest for purity which in this case backfires. Evidently Giuseppe Verdi himself saw that this work needed something more and he gave it more of his finest work after the premiere. As a purist Muti wants it come scritto, like as it was on the very first night. Then we have his, as it has been described before, puritanical conducting. Ernani suffers especially badly by this approach. Ernani need lots of passion from everybody.
Placido Domingo is the most adorable Ernani. His facial expressions alone makes a woman go LOVE YOU FOREVER, PLACIDISSIMO. Acting and singing is amazing. Sadly he has the wonderful, amazing soprano Mirella Freni at his side. Mirella Freni singing Elisabetta in Verdi's Don Carlo is as far as she can reach, Elvira is out of he league. A terrified Elvira is not enough, one need supremely confident soprano as Elvira. Freni does not have the big, dark voice for Elvira. Ghiaurov and Bruson are adequate enough. But where is the passion. Ernani is really an opera about big feelings all the time. Passion is not there, sadly.
But I have Met on Demand so how would Metropolitan Opera make of this opera. First I chose the newest video with Marco Armiliato conducting Marcello Giordani as Ernani, Angela Meade as Elvira, Ferruccio Furlanetto as Silva and Dmitri Hvorostovsky as Carlo. Marco Armiliato lets the opera breath passion and the production is just as wonderful. Marcello Giordani is good enough. Angela Meade is just fabulous. What a difference a soprano makes? We got passion. Ferruccio Furlanetto is a brilliant Silva. Dmitiri Hvorostovsky offers an interesting Carlo. Go for Carlo, Elvira!!
The winner the video from December 17, 1983. Same production, except that Elvira does not kill herself as she does almost 30 years later. Conducted by James Levine it just simply a joy listening to it. Luciano Pavarotti is the most wonderful Ernani and I am not only talking vocally. Pavarotti acts with every fibre of his being Ernani. Leonie Mitchell is a great Elvira even as Angela Meade wins with her agility. Ruggero Raimondi is Silva, wonderful singing and acting. Sherrill Milnes is the best Carlo ever. Just perfect!!