's first big Paris hit, Jérusalem is an 1847 rewrite of I Lombardi
. Along with a new French text, the action is clarified, characters and scenes are dropped, the tenor role is beefed up, and the obligatory ballet is added, among other changes. It's a more coherent opera in this version, although Italian audiences have clung to I Lombardi
, which is still mounted on the world's stages. The Philips team, however, makes a powerful case for this French grand opera story of betrayal, love, war and rescue, penitence, and vindication painted in primary colors on a canvas of Crusaders and villains, rousingly set to effective, if blunt, music.
Fabio Luisi conducts a vigorous performance and draws excellent work from orchestra and chorus. The smaller roles are generally adequately cast. Marina Mescheriakova is an excellent Hélène, the plucky heroine who follows her exiled fiancé to the Holy Land. Her lustrous soprano voice shines with true Verdian flavor. As Gaston, the tenor hero, Marcello Giordani, is first-rate, tender in his soft singing, tossing off ringing high notes in his heroic passages. An excellent performance of an opera well worth hearing. --Dan Davis