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Revival of Il trovatore

New York
Metropolitan Opera
09/25/2015 -  & September 29, October 3, 10, 17, 2015, February 3, 6, 9, 13, 2016
Giuseppe Verdi: Il trovatore
Stefan Kocan (Ferrando), Maria Zifchak (Ines), Anna Netrebko (Leonora), Dmitri Hvorostovsky (di Luna), Yonghoon Lee (Manrico), Dolora Zajick (Azucena), Edward Albert (A Gypsy), David Lowe (Messenger), Raul Melo (Ruiz)
The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Chorus, Marco Armiliato (conductor)
Sir David McVicar (production), Charles Edwards (sets), Brigitte Reiffenstuel (costumes), Jennifer Tipton (lights), Leah Hausman (choreographer)

A. Netrebko (© Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera)

Sir David McVicar’s gritty production of Verdi’s middle period masterpiece – often called "the last bel canto opera" – has commanded unusually tenacious traction and even some badly needed popularity for the Met as it works to make itself more relevant and appealing. This season’s starry revival features two of the greatest singers before the public today. Superstar soprano Anna Netrebko only began singing Leonora last year, in a judicious move from the lighter lyric roles that made her famous to heavier dramatic parts. The famous baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky has had more practice in the role of the wicked Count di Luna. Last night he drew a prolonged ovation from a sympathetic house that knew he was appearing at the Met for just three performances between treatments for a brain tumor. They were joined by the young Korean tenor Yonghoon Lee, whose energetic Manrico held its own in an evening of auditory delight.

Netrebko’s facility with her newly adopted heavier parts delivered a captivating performance that it feels repetitive to praise to the skies. Robust projection combined with a voluptuous full bodied sound to explore Leonora’s wide-ranging emotions as the character matures from a bel canto teenager in heat to a quietly determined spinto convincingly prepared to give her life for the man she loves. In a special feat of desperation in the "Miserere" scene, when the character registers her realization that all will end in the downbeat aria "D’amor sull’ali rosee," Netrebko scampered partway up the fence barring her way to Manrico’s place of imprisonment. Hvorostovsky’s medical condition placed no limitations on his cool, authoritative delivery of Count di Luna’s music, much of which communicates barely controlled rage. There were moments when the character’s aristocratic reserve could have yielded to greater passion, but this paled in significance when he delivered the role’s signature aria "Il balen del suo sorriso" with a standard of Verdi baritone singing to which all performers aspiring to that most challenging of vocal types should aspire. Lee’s Manrico contributed a high spirited, clarion sound that paired well with thrilling dramatic flair. The voice did not always bloom to match those of his colleagues, but impetuosity of his caliber rarely finds its way to the stage these days. In the role of Manrico’s mother Azucena, the gypsy whose mistaken burning of the wrong baby sets the whole plot in motion, veteran mezzo Dolora Zajick buzzed with the appealing low notes that have made her performances essential in any serious contemplation of the part. Stefan Kocan’s Ferrando was a stentorian addition to the cast.

McVicar’s production is holding up well, though the massive rotating wall that dominates every scene tends toward the tiresome. This revival has spruced up the action with some muscular stage action -- di Luna, for example, takes a serious beating when his plot to abduct Leonora from the convent is foiled. Marco Armiliato led a reasonably paced performance, though the singers did not always seem to agree with his tempos.

Paul du Quenoy



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