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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Opera Review: Workin' Them Anvils: Il Trovatore at the Met

The Met Chorus bangs the anvils in Act II of Trovatore.
Photo © 2010 Ken Howard/The Metropolitan Opera
The Metropolitan Opera revived its grim, war-torn (in other words, perfect) production of Il Trovatore on Tuesday night. The performance was anchored by four strong leads and strong conducting from Marco Armiliato. The stage design, a rotating unit set that depicts the devastated Spanish countryside during the Spanish Civil War, helped the singers project their voices out into the house.

Patricia Racette was feeling ill, and asked for a disposition before the performance. But as evidenced by her starry rendition of "Tacea la notte", the veteran Verdi soprano needed no such indulgence. Ms. Racette brings out the deepest emotions in Leonora, making her a complex, fascinating heroine caught in the opera's whirlpool of a plot. As Leonora died in the last act, Ms. Racette showed more singing and acting ability while lying on the stage than some sopranos have when standing up and healthy.

Marcelo Álvarez looked and sounded rejuvenated as he tackled the difficult role of Manrico. The Argentinean tenor has slimmed down, and his high register has bloomed in response. This was especially apparent during "Di quella pira," where he tossed off the high notes in a fearless manner and made this tricky aria look easy. He also sang with power and clarity in his character's opening ballade and the climactic "Miserere."

Zjelko Lujic has been a Verdi mainstay at the Met in recent years, delivering memorable performances in operas such as Macbeth and Rigoletto. Here, he added the role of the Count di Luna to that repertory. His interpretaton goes beyond the usual chest-thumping, mustache-twirling villain.

Mr. Lujic had the finest musical moment of the evening in Act III. This was "Il balen del suo sorriso", the two-part aria that gives the listener all the complexities of Di Luna's personality in just six minutes. It should also be mentioned that bass Alexander Tsymbalyuk made a strong house debut as the loyal retainer Ferrando.

The gypsy Azucena is the character at the heart of Trovatore. Marianne Cornetti made a case for her harrowing interpretation. She sang "Stride la vampa" with real terror in her voice .In the closing minutes of the opera, she went just far enough over the top, simultaneously celebrating and grieving the death of Manrico. As Mr. Lujic sunk to his knees in horror, the orchestra banged home the last chords on this successful revival.
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Critical Thinking in the Cheap Seats

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Since 2007, Superconductor has grown from an occasional concert or CD review to a near-daily publication covering classical music, opera and the arts in and around NYC, with excursions to Boston, Philadelphia, and upstate NY. I am a freelance writer living and working in Brooklyn NY. And no, I'm not a conductor.