Epic undertaking

By LLOYD SCHWARTZ  |  May 12, 2008

“This is very old-fashioned,” a friend remarked during one intermission. Former soprano Stephanie Sundine’s staging might have worked if it had been more self-consciously old-style, with the singers conveying some awareness of outmoded grand opera traditions. Instead we got no style at all. Howard Tsvi Kaplan’s lavish costumes couldn’t compensate for Christina Todesco’s flat, unstylish sets, which included a laughably gigantic imitation Velázquez portrait and a shingle with Charlemagne’s name on it hanging at the entrance to his tomb.

Ernani might have worked better in concert.

But maybe not. Gil Rose is one of Boston’s most skillful and versatile conductors, but I’m sad to report that opening night his conducting lacked tension and overall momentum. Verdi’s livelier moments were energetic enough, but the slower passages also need a rhythmic thrust. Beginning with the overture, Rose let these lyrical passages go limp. And limp Verdi just isn’t Verdi.

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