Il Trovatore's story may be convoluted and sometimes ridiculous and some of the emotions over-the-top, but the characters are still interesting- Azucena especially- and the music is magnificent, one of Verdi's richest scores melodically with some of his most beautiful ever music. This Salzburg production is a long way from irredeemable and the cast on paper and the museum concept were intriguing but on the whole it just doesn't work.
The sets and costumes are far more appealing than the sets and costumes of the Berlin performance also starring Anna Netrebko and Placido Domingo, maybe it is a little too much of one colour but they are sumptuously designed and the predominant crimson red colour is really striking. The orchestra play with plenty of power and nuance, giving a rousing rendition of the Anvil Chorus and providing a sensitive accompaniment in D'Amor Sull'Alli Rosee, and the crisp sound quality helps give Verdi's music its power. The chorus bring a very vibrant sound and good balance and precision. The performances were inconsistent, with Anna Netrebko coming out on top. She sounds absolutely wonderful, her dark, rich and creamy sound still remains, she phrases and shapes her music beautifully and intelligently and the role sits well in her voice. While not quite as good as in the Berlin performance, her D'Amor Sull'Alli Rosee is very heartfelt and radiantly sung and her singing in the Miserere was thrilling which is more than the most lifeless account of the scene I've ever heard deserved. In the acting stakes she is by far and large the most believable, bringing some much needed emotion and passion to Leonora.
Riccardo Zanellato is an authoritative Ferrando and sings suitably ominously, the scene was rather sluggishly paced musically but Zanellato still brings enough command to make one still want to listen to the dark tale the character tells. Diana Haller successfully makes Ines a touching confidante.
Placido Domingo however is really disappointing as DiLuna. I am a big fan of Domingo, especially as Cavaradossi and Otello, but he seemed to be struggling here(he was a mixed bag in the Berlin performance). His voice frequently sounds underpowered and out of breath and his normally excellent musicality does not come through, the singing lacks nuance and legato is choppy. Usually he is an outstanding actor with the ability to really connect with the role and embody it, this didn't come through either in the production where he goes through the motions and plays the grumpiest DiLuna imaginable. Francesco Meli does have a lovely sweet-toned voice and copes very well with the lyric elements of the role but in the heavier moments his tone becomes less easy and strained, and that is including Di Quella Pira. His acting is indifferent, and his chemistry with Netrebko completely lacks spark. Marie-Nicole Lemieux comes over as too soft for a vengeful gypsy and she is not in her best voice either, often sounding unsteady and shrill at the top and tired at the lower middle and bottom.
Daniele Gatti's conducting is really leaden and almost too syrupy here, it may work for Richard Strauss but it sounds completely wrong in Verdi, with the Anvil Chorus and D'Amor Sull'Alli Rosee being the only tempos I didn't question. As aforementioned, if there is a more lifeless account of the Miserere it has yet to be heard by me. Where the production most fails is in the staging, which throughout is very static with a vast majority of it lacking tension(particularly in the scenes between Leonora and DiLuna) and chemistry. The museum concept was interesting but nothing is done with it, existing as setting only. Likewise nothing is done making the characters interesting, the story engaging or clear or making the drama emotionally investable, most emotions being forced. The chorus have so little to do dramatically it is almost as if the stage director forgot about it.
Overall, very disappointing production that even the cast cannot save. 4/10 Bethany Cox
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