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L'Africane (Meyerbeer) 1988
G

  • Brian Large
  • January 1, 1988
  • 189 mins
  • French
This is both rare and well-done: a sadly neglected grand opera, as spectacular in its own way as Aida or Turandot, in a production that is not likely to be surpassed in the foreseeable future. Meyerbeer's L'Africaine is remembered today almost exclusively for a single aria that Enrico Caruso recorded in Italian,
This was a 1988 revival of a 1971 production that teamed Domingo (Vasco da Gama) and Verrett (Selika - both then very much in their prime) in Meyerbeer's discursive swan-song. Seventeen years on, they are more statuesque than sexy, but both give larger-than-life performances that contain moments of completely thrilling vocalism. The casting is very strong, with the exception of Justino Diaz's Nelusko, which has strong presence but not much vocal allure. As Inez, Vasco da Gama's fiancee and rival for Shirley Verrett, Ruth Ann Swneson sings with great beauty and has impressive stage presence, very much holding her own in the confrontation with Verrett in the last act. Domingo is refulgent of tone and dramatically convincing, and he and Verrett strike sparks. She really comes into her own in one of the most preposterous mad-scenes in all opera, where she is slowly poisoned by the scent of a giant tree, contriving to make this dramatically truthful and even moving.

Actors

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