I have seen worse Verdi productions such as 2003's Rigoletto, 2005's Don Carlos and 2009's Aida, but I'll be honest in saying that I didn't care for this Trovatore. The opera is one of Verdi's best, the story is convoluted sure but the score is Verdi's most melodically rich perhaps and the characters are among Verdi's most memorable. So naturally after seeing the 1957(the best Trovatore), 1972(with Caballe), 1978, 1985, 1988(though I seem to be a minority in loving that one) and 2002(also the wonderful 2011 Met production) productions, I was expecting something good and didn't mind something fresh as well.
But I personally did find the production very strange. The staging never really excited me, and there were some times where I was even confused, because some scenes do the complete opposite to what's being sung. Take for example the opening scene with Ferrando, how could the whole "gather round and listen" line he sings make sense when his followers are several storeys below him? The costumes and sets all revolve around the famous floating lake of Bregenz, but considering that the opera is set in 15th century Spain the updating to a multistory petrochemical plant painted red(the Covent scene especially felt odd with this setting), complete with limousines, slinky party dresses and a Kalashnikov baffled me rather than thrilled me. Stage director Robert Carsen has done things I have loved such as Eugene Onegin and Capriccio, and despite some questionable touches I enjoyed his Der Rosenkavalier. This and his La Scala Don Giovanni puzzled me though.
I wish I had better news about the musical values, but while mostly good there are inconsistencies, which I'll start with. Carlo Tanner as Manrico spends the whole time oblivious to everybody around him, and while by Ah Si Ben Mio it gets better, his singing for the first two acts has too much of a bellowing, wobbly quality to it. The Leonora of Iano Tamar is not bad actually, she is committed and her D'Amor Sull'Alli Rosee is very expressive, but I find she is better at the Spinto range of the role rather than the just as prominent lyric colouratura aspect, her colouratura in her trios between Tanner and Lucic and her Act 1 aria cabaletta betrays a lack of accuracy with some strained high notes and lacking trills. Giovanni Battista Parrodi, despite the stage directions, is a serviceable Ferrando. He's fine dramatically giving a certain command, but while his voice is good it's just lacking in sonority.
This Trovatore is not all bad though, because the orchestral playing is very rich and powerful, the chorus quite rousing(the Anvil Chorus has been more thrillingly done elsewhere but it was one of the least problematic parts of the production and is well sung) and the conducting commanding for the climaxes and nuanced for the pathos of D'Amor Sull'Alli Rosee and Ah Si Ben Mio. Marianne Cornetti is an excellent Azucena also, she's not the best in the role(I much prefer Arkhipova, Cossotto and Zajick) and doesn't quite make it her own, but her mezzo is full, her acting perfectly showing Azucena's suffering and her Stride Le Vampe narrative is quite intense. The best of the cast was the DiLuna of Zeljko Lucic, some of his top is a little on the dry side, but it is a powerful and very musical voice and he manages to give the role menace and even a little bit of sympathy.
Although I did dislike the staging on the whole, there was one touch that did work very well, which was at the very end with the fire glistening in the waters of the like, really quite scary and thrilling if you think about it. Sadly, it was a touch that while redeeming the performance a lot came too late. The sound was also decent, not as tinny as it can be in outdoor spaces. Overall, a strange production that didn't work for me, but the ending, Cornetti, Lucic and the orchestral playing do bring it up from a complete disaster to just bordering on okay. 5/10 Bethany Cox
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