Met in HD: Beautifully sung ‘Trovatore’ a worthy season opener

Met in HD: Beautifully sung ‘Trovatore’ a worthy season opener

The current Met production is a bit too dark and gloomy on stage. But this “Trovatore’s” splendid cast steps in to provide the vocal sunshine.

The Anvil Chorus from Verdi's "Il Trovatore," being broadcast live this week via the Met in HD. (Credit: Ken Howard)

WASHINGTON, October 6, 2015 – The New York Metropolitan Opera kicked off its 2015-2016 edition of “The Met in HD” with a rousing live HD broadcast of Verdi’s “Il Trovatore” from its home in Lincoln Center.

The Met’s mid-day Saturday broadcast was slightly marred by the occasional technical glitch, at least at Tysons AMC 16 in Vienna, Virginia where we viewed it. But the performance itself by the Met’s all-star cast—soprano Anna Netrebko, tenor Yonghoon Lee, and baritone Dmitri Hvorostovky—was hitting on all cylinders from beginning to end.

Dmitri Hvorostovsky and Anna Netrebko star in the Met's "Il Trovatore." (Credit: Ken Howard)
Dmitri Hvorostovsky and Anna Netrebko star in the Met’s “Il Trovatore.” (Credit: Ken Howard)

“Trovatore’s” confusing and at times unbelievable plot is a living legend in opera circles, roughly focusing as it does on a murderous revenge tragedy that pits a royal family against a hapless tribe of roving gypsies. One family tragedy begets another as a twisted pair of dark secrets creates a love triangle that can only conclude in death.

Fortunately, as in the case of another poorly-plotted opera—Mozart’s “Magic Flute”—the music has long transcended the plot, and “Trovatore” remains a great favorite among Verdi fans and opera aficionados in general.

Long a Met favorite, soprano Anna Netrebko was flawless as Verdi’s doomed heroine, Leonora, effortlessly traversing the composer’s difficult vocal terrain that ranges from the softly delicate to the powerfully passionate.

Her tone was smooth and precise and her vocal ornamentation was flawless. And she surprised the audience in the opera’s final stanza by climbing up the crossbars of a steep, iron prison fence to emphasize her point. Clearly, Ms. Netrebko’s Leonora is a girl worth fighting for.

Mr. Lee, whom we have not seen before, was an aggressive, impulsive and worthy Manrico, Leonora’s gypsy lover and leader of a rebellion against the ruthless Count di Luna. Verdi’s orchestration in this opera approaches that of Wagner in its power and its scope, which can prove a formidable obstacle to a tenor who has not yet developed the vocal reach to match it. Mr. Lee had no problems with his role at all, and his knife-clear tenor voice easily sliced through the loudest and thickest orchestral passages.

It was clear, though, that in many respects, Saturday’s audience was eager to see what Mr. Hvorostovsky would do in the role of the villainous di Luna. This internationally-renowned Russian star baritone was diagnosed with a brain tumor this past June, and had dropped his entire summer performance schedule as he underwent treatment for his ailment, which reports suggest is non-cancerous but threatens his steadiness and balance.

Nonetheless, Mr. Hvorostovsky showed up ready to play Saturday, playing his part to the hilt and singing with great authority and skill, almost as if nothing had happened this past summer. We thought we detected a little carefulness in his stage stance and movements. But he still carried off the opera’s swordplay convincingly, and his vocal power and range seemed not impaired in the least. It was a brave performance, which the audience mightily appreciated.

A hat tip goes as well to mezzo-soprano Dolora Zajick as the crafty, revenge-minded gypsy Azucena, the woman who essentially had set this opera’s plot in motion in a generation that grew up before the opera’s opening curtain. A skilled thespian as well as a strong singer, Ms. Zajick added both mystery and malice to her marvelous characterization.

Another hat tip for a wonderfully vigorous and beefcake-laden Anvil Chorus, rousingly sun by the Met’s great chorus.

The only drawback to this production involves David McVicar’s circa 2009 revolving set—an unrelieved cycle of visual gloom and doom, constructed entirely of stone and cement walls that threw off ominous shadows, courtesy of an intentionally dark and shadowy lighting scheme. That “Trovatore” is loaded with intrigue and nastiness is a given. But why the visuals should be so darkly depressing throughout seems to me, at least, to be overkill.


Rating: *** (3 out of 4 stars)

Fortunately, for opera fans who may have missed this one, the “Met in HD” series provides an “encore” presentation of “Trovatore” this Wednesday evening at select area theaters around the world. For USA viewers, check out the particulars below.

Met in HD’s “Il Trovatore” Encore Performance Date: Wednesday, October 7, 2015.  (This is a recorded version of Saturday’s live performance.)

Time: 6:30 p.m. in all U.S. time zones.

Run Time: 3 hours 50 minutes (approximate)

Ticketing: Just click here “Buy Tickets” button. Alternatively, For advance tickets, information and theater locations visit the Met’s website. If online ticketing isn’t available for your location, you can purchase your tickets by visiting the box office at your local participating cinema. To the best of our knowledge, ticket prices in most venues are $25, an astounding bargain for anyone who’s familiar with purchasing seats to a live performance.

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