Friday, 26 March 1999

Il Trovatore , Opera Australia, 26 March 1999

by Giuseppe Verdi  Opera Australia at State Theatre  March 26, 29, 31 April 6, 9, 21, 25 (matinee), 1999
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on 26 March

“A silly lot of nonsense”: This was a recent description of Il Trovatore (The Troubadour) by a reputable Australian conductor and it echoes much of the criticism of the narrative of the opera. Much of its music, however, is glorious, particularly the tenor and soprano arias, “Ah, si, ben mio” and “D’amor sull’ali rosee”.

It’s rickety plot, derived from El Trovador, a 14th century play by 23 year old Spanish playwright, Antonio Garcia Gutierrez, is riddled with gothic violence and reflects Verdi’s own dark pessimism and has all the bleakness of the Spanish Revenge Tragedies of the 17th century. It was written between Verdi’s masterpieces, Rigoletto and La Traviata and first performed in 1853 in Rome.

American tenor, Antonio Nagore, is spectacular as Manrico, with a fine, bright, bell-like tenor and a sexy, passionate stage presence. As Leonora, Maria Pollicina’s soprano was uneven initially but her nerves settled later. Elizabeth Campbell’s warm, rich contralto is perfect for Azucena and Michael Lewis is in fine voice as Count di Luna. Arend Baumann’s uses his dark honey tones as Ferrando.

Verdi’s operas were always tragic and, around this period, his mother and his lyricist died and he had lost two children. Any wonder he wrote an opera with no hope; fortune frowns on al characters, good or evil. There is a civil war, witch burnings, murdered children, executions, a poisoning, a duel and jousting is the only entertainment apart from the troubadour’s song.

Fifteen years earlier, the Count’s baby brother was kidnapped by a gypsy, Azucena, and tossed into the fire that killed the gypsy’s mother. Lady Leonora is in love with an anonymous Black Knight who re-appears as a gypsy troubadour, Manrico. The Count di Luna, obsessed with Leonora, seeks the death of his rival, Manrico .

In the fourth act, the most interesting both musically and dramatically, all our heroes die. Leonora suicides to save her lover but Manrico is executed and Azucena reveals that he is the Count’s brother who she kidnapped after hurling her own baby into the fire in her delirium. Gothic? Melodramatic? That’s opera folks!


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