I have a confession to make: I’m a fan of Verdi’s Il Trovatore. There’s a lot to like and dislike in Verdi’s monumental work. The plot is convoluted, contrived, and romantic. The music is magnificent. Has there ever been a finer example of characterization in operatic composition? Particularly in the part of the gypsy Azucena, probably the greatest role for mature mezzos. The opera has been very effectively parodied by the Marx Brothers in A Night at the Opera.
I love it all: the melodramatic plot, the gypsy burned at the stake as a witch, the nobleman stolen in infancy by gypsies, the romantic triangle, the noble sacrifice, the vengeance realized, the gloomy atmosphere, the scenery chewing, the incredibly gorgeous music. We’d hoped for a production like last year’s stunning Rigoletto. It was not to be.
Dolora Zajick as Azucena was the highlight of last night’s performance. She sang the rather difficult role with authority and strength, indeed Vincenzo La Scola as Manrico was hard put to keep up with her in their second act duet, the gem of the opera. That’s her above in the famous Act II “Anvil Chorus”, Chi del gitano.
I wasn’t as enthusiastic about the rest of the principle players. Sondra Radvanovsky sang Leonora very competently and her timbre was, well, interesting. A bit too theramin-like for my tastes (you know—that instrument in the 1950’s science fiction movies). A times I thought she was shouting or even screaming her part.
Mark Delavan surely must have been having an off night as Count di Luna. I don’t know whether he was nervous or, possibly, ill (I heard him cough, occasionally). He sang terribly flat and his vocal placement was off (one of our seat companions characterized it as “Dudley Do-Right”). There shouldn’t be off nights at this level.
The set was dominated by a single, large, moving set piece. You can see part of is at house right above. It rotated to show a courtyard, a prison, a scene outside a palace. I find such monumental set pieces a little nerve-wracking (I may tend to look at such things from the point of view of the stage manager rather than that of the audience—there’s a lot that can go wrong). I wish there had been some other interest in the set design or decoration: a brightly-colored prop or drapery—something to relieve the darkness of the set.
As best as I can tell the costumes were set in the Napoleonic era rather than the 15th century in which the action of the opera is set (or the 1850’s of the opera’s composition). Why? I have no idea. Were top hats ever a part of any military uniform anywhere? Shakos, yes. Top hats?
All in all a mediocre production with competent performances marred by a poor performance of the Count.