Thursday, April 28, 2011

Oops! Wrong baby!

Through the generosity of a friend who declines to be identified in my blog--not the first to say he's ashamed to be associated with me--I was allowed to see Mr. Verdi's Il Trovatore last night at the Met. A wonderful gift, as I will not be able to see the HD broadcast on Saturday, April 30.  I hadn't seen the current production by Mr. McVicar, which had its premiere in February of 2009.  In truth, it had been quite a long time since I'd seen a full performance of Il Trovatore.

The story is about as typically operatic as possible.  Love triangles, political intrigue, nuns, dead babies--all that's missing is a parade of elephants or a dead person singing through the wall!  "The much-parodied story of the troubadour of the title, his vengeance-obsessed gypsy mother, his devoted lover, and her evil aristocratic pursuer is self-consciously outrageous--that is, it is intended to outrage an audience's sense of order and decorum." states the Met's program notes.  But Mr. McVicar's updating of the story to the Spanish Civil War in the early 19th century doesn't seem to accomplish the purpose of clarifying relationships and power status.  This reporter found the unit set ugly and distracting, and some of the staging was just plain vulgar.  I saw no reason for the huge crucifix and charred bodies on stakes that remained upstage right no matter what unsightly and inadequate view the noisily rotating unit set gave us.  I am in the minority in this opinion, however.  Mr. Tommasini of The New York Times very much liked the production when it premiered at the Met in 2009.

In the end, however, I'm always there for the singing, and for the most part I was pleased.  Let us start with Marcelo Alvarez as Manrico.  After bowing out of the second half of last Saturday's performance and having cover Arnold Rawls perform in his stead with great success (do look at his web site, and enjoy his remarkable YouTube videos!), Mr. Alvarez was back last night.  He is not a particularly subtle singer, but I do think he gets the job done.  He looks heroic and I heard many beautiful sounds from him.  Although the Family Circle seat I had impaired my ability to discern the level of subtlety in his acting, I certainly found him believable as a rebel soldier, son of a gypsy, and lover of a woman of rank.

Dolora Zajick
Photo:  Sara Krulwich, The New York Times
Mr. Tommasini called mezzo Dolora Zajick "a force of nature" in his review of the premiere, and I must agree.  She sings the gypsy Azucena, as everything else I've heard her sing, with beauty and passion.  Although I thought the production was a hindrance, the scenes she shared with Mr. Alvarez were spellbinding.

Sondra Radvanovsky.  I'm not a fan.  Opinions are strongly divided on Miss Radvanovsky's singing, with many passionate supporters.  There have been cases where I've learned that singers whose sounds I don't like were magic onstage to watch, but I'm not sure this is one of them.  I find her sound strident at times, with a bit of tension that produces a hollow sound.  She can achieve surprising things in spite of her technical limitations, however, and I will admit to some beautiful sounds from her last night.  Her performance certainly was passionate, which is part of what inspires such a devoted following from opera queens afficionados.

Marcelo Alvarez and Sondra Radvanovsky
The oh-so-handsome Dmitri Hvorostovksy sang beautifully, as usual, and portrayed the passion, jealousy, and rage of the Count di Luna quite convincingly.  He had moments when he sounded tired, but they are forgivable.

Once again I give the Met's chorus high praise.  And Marco Armiliato and the Met's orchestra gave us many beautiful moments.

All in all, I enjoyed the evening, even with all the qualms I list.  I'm a big lover of Il Trovatore, and it's hard to ruin it for me.  Try as they might, the Met did not do that.

1 comment:

Erika Beth, the Messy Chef said...

What's NOT to love about Zajick. I've seen her twice and have been blown away both times (although I didn't have far to be blown seeing I was in the cheap usual.)