(Giuseppe Verdi) (1853) (The Met, October 2015)
The story of this opera can be summed-up in this little ditty:
“Yes, Sir, that’s my baby,
No Sir, I do mean maybe,
Yes Sir, baby’s on the stove.
What, Sir, why say ‘maybe’?
Well, see, ‘cos that baby
May be from another trove.”
(With apologies to Gus Kahn and Walter Donaldson)
Sorry to trivialise Verdi’s lovely opera with the doggerel written above, but the plot of Il Trovatore, such as it is, is quite ridiculous. A gypsy hurls her own tot on the bonfire by mistake and closes the circle in conning a lascivious Duke to behead his little brother, whom she’s adopted (a soldier-rebel doubling as a troubadour), dooming herself in the process. Dopey, and what’s more, the back-story necessitates much dull exposition at the start, which means the whole shebang takes time to get going.
But who cares? The score is a dream and if the four lead roles are taken by first-class performers, it is a great night out at the opera. The Met’s production, well-filmed as usual by Gary Halvarson, has the David McVicar staging (rather stark, dark brown), and Marco Armiliato splendid with the baton.
Whilst Yonghoon Lee (as Manrico) rather obviously could not be the biological son of Azucena (Dolora Zajick), they were both in fine form, Lee in particular dealing with some very tricky moments. Anna Netrebko as Leonora was glorious, almost getting us to ignore the fact that, rather than attempt to climb the fortress gate, she could have walked around the corner of the incomplete wall.
But Dimitri Hvorostrovsky stole the show as nasty Count Di Luna. He has the very intense and grim Russian visage, of course, but his impressive baritone rang-out with great intensity, as he spent the entire show being spurned, knifed, and double-crossed. At curtain, he got a standing ovation that was not only richly deserved but poignant, since he is struggling with a brain tumour.*
So, it’s 4 out of 5 for the troubadour.[*Vale Dimitri (22 November 2017)]