This performance which I saw in HD broadcast, is superb in all respects.
Puritani, though quite beautiful, is quite a static opera. Musically, what creates momentum is the profligacy and haunting quality of its melodic content, and the underlying rhythmic diversity present throughout the work. Thus much depends on the conductor. He has to let the melodies soar but keep taut control of the rhythms, flexibility without slackness.
How Bellini came to use so much polonaise in dealing with Scottish Puritans is a puzzlement, but it works very well. Mr. Summers, whom I had never heard of before, is very good and he succeeds admirably in not letting matters wilt while never rushing anything. Besides its admirable set pieces, Puritani is full of little musical moments, almost throwaway beautiful two- or three-bar melodic phrases that make one comprehend the great respect with which Bellini was regarded by both Chopin and Wagner.
A conductor cannot underline all of these, otherwise the performance becomes one of fits and starts, but they need to be noticed, with subtlety. Mr. Summers understands this very well and executes accordingly. It is ironic how much this opera, considered pre-eminently a singers' work, depends, to be truly effective, on the person silently wielding the baton.
Of course, there is the very dramatic "mad" scene Bellini provided for Elvira, pretty much out of nowhere, but even that is anchored by one of the most beautiful melodies ever written. Anna Netrebko is marvelous throughout, and excels in Qui La Voce and its aftermath. It's quite a haunting, dramatic performance that will long be remembered. You will gasp. The rest of the cast performs admirably, Mr. Cutler providing solid technique, poise and feeling in one of the highest tessitura tenor roles around.
Richard Falvo hosts.
Here's a little sample to whet your appetite...