Early Verdi may be musically predictable (except when it isn't), in the same way Mozart can be, (except when he isn't), but that does not take away from the operas he wrote in those years. "Ernani," which we saw in HD simulcast last Saturday, was written when he was 30 years old.

Verdi ensembles are amazing, with each singer (and the chorus) expressing their points of view at the same time, but instead of creating a confusion of ideas, the listener clearly knows what is going on with each character. Their vocal lines fit together with melodic integrity, creating a tapestry of magnificent sound. Further, when you put that together the cast of Saturday's performance, you hear something memorable.

Angela Meade is a very fine singer. Her role of Elvira is yet another tour-de-force for the soprano. She sings her major aria in her entrance scene, first crack out of the box. "Ernani, involami" is full of drawn-out lines, florid passages, roulades and high notes, sung by an unhappy young woman being forced into a marriage with her elderly uncle (!) (Don Ruy Gomez de Silva,) who adores her. She is desperately in love with someone else, Ernani. Silva was sung by the superb Ferruccio Furlanetto, probably the finest basso anywhere, especially in this repertory. The ovation the aria received was well-deserved. If there is any caveat at all, she does have a wide vibrato that was distracting especially on her trills, but which calmed down quickly. Her love, Ernani, is an outlaw nobleman, on the run.

In this role, Marcello Giordano displayed his ringing tenor, but is able to modulate his sound as the drama demands, and his duets with Meade were sensitive and beautiful. Ernani himself is in a lot of trouble with King Charles I of Spain, since his father was Charles' sworn enemy and is also in love with Elvira. As the king, silver-haired, handsome Dmitri Hvorostovsky dominated every scene that was his. He has a mellifluous voice, and understands exactly how to put his lovelorn desire across, though he is an immensely powerful man. When he is elected Holy Roman Emperor, Charles the Fifth, he forsakes his jealousy and anger. Wishing to emulate the virtue and mercy if the first HRE, Charlmagne, he consents to the marriage of Ernani and Elvira. Silva is not so charitable, calling in Ernani's oath to kill himself when he hears a horn call, which of course comes minutes after Elvira and Ernani have been married. Not surprisingly, this is fatal for Ernnai, and for Elvira, who joins him in suicide.

This production was set, lit and costumed in the period, rich and sumptuous. Meade's costuming was very well done, since she is a lady of some girth, but seated in the house, that would not have been all that evident. Hvorostovsky's regal costuming was opulent, and everyone else, including the entire chorus looked terrific. Three supporting singers, MaryAnn McCormick, Jeremy Galyon and Adam Laurence Hershkowitz contributed equally fine singing and truthful acting. The conductor of the first-class Metropolitan Opera Orchestra was the estimable Marco Armiliato, who has a flare for his work that is both tasteful and powerful. This was the last "Ernani" for this part of the season.

Beware of next year's "innovative" production of Verdi's classic `Rigoletto." It will be set in Las Vegas! There are others, such as Zandonai's "Francesca da Rimini," not offered for couple of decades, a beautiful production, Berlioz' "Les Troyens," Wagner's "Parsifal" (a new production, heaven knows what someone will do to that, but Jonas Kaufmann will sing the title role.) The Wagner "Ring" will be presented, and Donizetti's "Maria Stuarda," the second of his Elizabethan queens, with mezzo Joyce DiDonato. Two more HD presentations, Massenet's "Manon" on April 7; and Verdi's "La Traviata," on April 27. There may still be seats. Call the Quick Center box office at 203-254-4010 after 10:30 a.m.

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