The inaugural production of Riccardo Chailly's era as La Scala's music director, Verdi's Giovanna d'Arco stars Anna Netrebko "ablaze in the title role of warrior-saint" (The Observer) and features an imaginative production by Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier. The first performance of the opera at La Scala in over 150 years, the historic performance is now available here on blu-ray disc.
Giovanna d'Arco (libretto by Temistocle Solera partially based on the play by Friedrich von Schiller) was the fifth opera that Verdi wrote for the Teatro alla Scala. After the resounding successes achieved with Nabucco and I Lombardi alla prima crociata, expectations for the new work were very high. Premiered on February 15, 1845, the opera did not meet the success it deserved, despite the high praise Verdi received for an orchestration that proved much more refined than that of his previous operas. Nevertheless, Giovanna d'Arco remained in the repertory of Italian theatres for almost 25 years.
It was revived at the Scala 20 years after its premiere (in 1865), but subsequently it disappeared from Italian opera programs except for a small number of isolated revivals. Riccardo Chailly explains why the Teatro alla Scala inaugurated its season with Giovanna d'Arco: "It's wrong to place it in Verdi's "prison years". Giovanna is more of a bridging opera, which anticipates the masterpieces of the composer's mature period. If it is performed rarely, it is because it demands enormous vocal effort."