Il Trovatore has gypsies, burning at the stake, dead babies, mistaken identity, poison, love, hate, revenge and enough plot holes to sink the Titanic. It also has some very effective dramatic moments and some utterly fabulous music. The biggest snag is probably that the utterly fantastic music needs a quartet of soloists who can deal with fiendishly difficult parts that require a combination of flawless bel canto technique coupled to Puccinian power and stamina. The power and stamina requirement being especially high in a barn like the Met. It also has a dramatical problem in that it consists if a sequence of fairly short scenes which means a production runs the risk of being chopped up by the changes of set.
The current Met production by David McVicar (broadcast in HD today) avoided the scene change problem by using a rotating set that made shifts virtually seamless. Beyond that the sets and costumes were fairly unremarkable but for a looming crucifixion scene in the background which set the appropriate tone. Blocking was fairly straightforward but effective and the fight scenes were well choreographed. All in all it provided a perfectly adequate setting for what was very much a singers’ performance.
The four principals were all utterly fantastic. I can’t single out any one of them. So Dmitri Hvorostovsky, Sandra Radvanovsky, Dolores Zajick and Marcelo Alvarez, bravi a tutti! The supporting cast were excellent too, especially Stefan Kocan as captain of the Guard. Praise due too to orchestra, chorus and conductor (Marco Armiliato). All in all, this was, musically, one of the best Met performances I have seen in HD.
The usual reservations about the direction for HD and the cinema sound quality but they couldn’t spoil a rather special afternoon at the opera.