Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

Opera, music, theater, and art in Los Angeles and beyond

Burn, Baby, Burn

March 21, 2009

Sondra Radvanovsky and Macelo Álvarez
Photo: Ken Howard/Met Opera 2009

Unfortunately, the Metropolitan Opera’s current production of Il Trovatore is no inferno, disco or otherwise. In fact, despite probably some of the best singing you’ll hear, David McVicar’s imported production never generates much heat. Which is odd considering he’s a director who usually knows exactly what he’s doing. But this is not his best work. Despite all of its minimal burnt-out Goya visual aesthetic, more often than not things still boil down to good old stand-and-deliver operatic conventions. In fact it looks distressingly similar to a myriad of other decades old productions the Met turns out with disturbing frequency. But the large rotating set does come to life periodically, and things do look dire even if none of the character’s ever look more than a little disheveled while emoting amongst the ruins. Even by McVicar's standards, things can be rather tame here. Yes, a shirt is ripped open every now and then, but this rarely looks like life during wartime.

But let’s go back to those vocal performances. Sondra Radvanovsky gave her signature Leonora performance to very enthusiastic response. She still isn’t getting the glossy bus ad treatment here in New York, but she certainly should be. She handles everything from piercing to pianissimo with ease and has just enough edge in her voice for this kind of Verdi role. Manrico was handled by Marcelo Álvarez, who returned to the production after calling in sick earlier this week. He didn’t sound any worse for the wear, though his acting tended toward the hand-wringing side of things. Dimitri Hvorostovsky was a debonair and impressive Count di Luna. (Which always raises the question of why does Leonora want Manrico over him?) Azucena was taken over in this week’s performances by the wonderful Luciana D’Intino who gave a very robust and highly felt performance. She was so good in fact, I suspect that there were more than a few people in the audience who didn’t realize that she wasn’t Dolora Zajick who exited the production last week to head off for a series of Santuzzas in Chicago. D'Intino is no second string talent to be sure. Of course, she does have to spend the last Act chained in a huge burnt-out pit, but these are the duties of the glamorous opera life.

Gianandrea Noseda aptly conducted this enjoyable but essentially underwhelming performance before the show goes on hiatus for a few weeks. Il Trovatore will return at the very end of the season here late next month with a new cast that will luckily include D'Intino.


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