Wednesday, 6 July 2016

ROH: Il trovatore ★★★★

Left to Right: Christopher Maltman (Count di Luna), Anna Pirozzi (Leonora), Conductor Gianandrea Noseda, Gregory Kunde (Manrico) and Marina Prudenskaya (Azucena).
The Covent Garden stage is dark, covered with barb wire and full of flames for director David Bösch’s new production of Verdi’s great epic Il trovatore. Back in the 19th century, when it was first staged, many critics respected the work for its composition and the musical mastery of Verdi, however, there were many reservations over the horrifying and perplexing nature of its storyline. This entails child death (similar to what’s showing down the road at the ENO's production of Jenufa), vengeful gypsy mothers, family feuds and war. Of course, the tragic opera isn't complete without lovers caught in the fire, set back by impossible circumstances. 
Lead cast with Maurizio Muraro (Ferrando), Lauren Fagan (Ines), and David Junghoon Kim (Ruiz). 
Revenge, anger, hatred and determination, to right the wrongs of the past, are the core pillars of this opera classic, which makes Il trovatore a passionate and engrossing work of art. The troubadour Manrico steals the heart of Leonora who is also loved by Manrico’s rival Count di Luna. Manrico’s mother Azucena seeks revenge on those who murdered her own mother, while Count di Luna vows to find his lost brother Garzia, believed to have been murdered by Azucena. 
View from the box.
These tormented and blood-lusting characters in Verdi's and librettist Salvardore Cammarano’s masterpiece are full of fiery emotions, and include many arias and music pieces, often, used in popular commercials, from the Anvil Chorus and Manrico’s ‘Di quella pira.’ Here it is brought together by neatly measured and impassioned conducting by Italian maestro Gianandrea Noseda, as well as sophisticated playing by the ROH orchestra - sweet and tender in Leonora and Manrico’s duet ‘Miserere’, and feverishly intense for Azucena’s 'Stride la vampa’. There's also glorious singing from the ROH chorus at the highly dramatic parts including 'Or co' dadi ma fra poco' in act three.

The glowing music and brilliant vocal talents of the production's cast is a marvel in itself.  Naples-born soprano Anna Pirozzi - certainly - brings the house down for instilling a tenacious Leonora with impressive top notes and vocal skill. Marina Prudenskaya also makes her Royal Opera House debut as the relentless Azucena. She’s the tour de force in this staging and presents a deeply tainted mother, tarnished by the child and mother she's lost. 

American tenor Gregory Kunde also charms the audience with a moving rendition of 'Di quella pira', which is a reminder of how difficult Verdi made the role of Manrico. And baritone Christopher Maltman returns to the Royal Opera House singing ‘Il balen del suo sorriso’ beautifully as the Count di Luna. 

Bösch’s red-hot production, however, is slightly troubled by its drab staging. The production is saved by Verdi’s music and a great cast of performers, yet the visual projections, coordinated by video designer Patrick Bannwart, are weak links. Animated butterflies fly on to the stage screen, during various scene changes, without any meaning, and it felt as if no visual life was offered elsewhere. Yet an army tank and a heart made out of barb wire and sticks, burning at the most crucial moment of the entire opera, are some of the production's saving graces. 

It is Verdi’s music that will make one go and see this opera, and nothing else. For any first-timer to Il trovatore, this opera is a pleasure to watch, which Covent Garden frames as a musical triumphant. My feelings for the opera are renewed - from a Verdi opera I haven't heard of before to an opera I've learnt to cherish.

There are two casts for this production, so please check the website for further details here.  
Showing until July 17th. 

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