Review by Barry Plaxen
LOCH SHELDRAKE, NY (October 7, 2015) — Adapting the great Bard’s phrase The Play’s the Thing, one might say that for the October 2, 2015 Live from the Met in HD production of “Il Trovatore”, The Music’s the Thing. But this masterpiece was composed by Giuseppe Verdi and that means that, truly, The Opera’s the Thing.
For Verdi, opera was not a musical work. It was a theatrical work incorporating the music and the drama equally into one cohesive unit. His many masterpieces reflect that. And, conversely, so do his “unsuccessful” operas, which have inadequate librettos. All his great works have “good” librettos.
This production, viewed in the “perfect” Seelig Auditorium at SUNY Sullivan in Loch Sheldrake happily afforded us the opportunity to witness the magnificence of an opera without its being one of the Met’s many recent revivals for which The Updated-Altered-Production’s the Thing” Yecch!
As mentioned in the “pre-talk” in the beautiful Seelig lobby, Enrico Caruso said (paraphrased), “mounting a production of “Il Trovatore” is easy. Just hire the four greatest singers in the world.” If that was not done for the October 2 cast, it came pretty darn close.
In the title role a/k/a Manrico, tenor Yonghoon Lee sang just about perfectly, rising up to his difficult high tessitura easily. As his mother, Azucena, in her “signature role”, mezzo Delora Zajcik sang beautifully. Both artists are not as skilled dramatically as soprano Anna Netrebko and baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky. These two performers gave us the greatness Caruso was referring to, that perfect melding of the music and drama, all the while conveying intense emotion with every glorious note.
And my, are they glorious! One incredibly inspired music section after another. Beautifully crafted arias, duets, trios, quartets, choruses, etc. that perhaps are more numerous than in Verdi’s other operas, if not as profound and masterful as in “Aida”, or as thrilling as in “Traviata”, or as thunderous as in “Forza” and “Ballo”, certainly more plentiful. It was all performed under the hands of conductor Marco Armiliato who led the singers, the Met’s great chorus, and comprimario singers Maria Zifchak as Ines, Stefan Kocan as Ferrando and Raul Melo as Ruiz.
Adding a festive tone to the performance, some rules were broken. Dmitri Hvorostovksy was returning to the Met after a recent bout with a brain tumor and was given the go-ahead to enter the stage NOT in character, but as himself, for a few brief moments only of course, to receive the audience’s warm and loving greeting. To be expected perhaps. But what was even more moving happened after the regular sequence of curtain calls.
After the conductor was brought on stage to receive his accolades, following his usual indication for the orchestra members to stand, they began to throw white roses onto the stage for Hvorostovksy which he happily grabbed and shared with the other artists. Most likely there was not a dry eye in the house!
Up next at SUNY Sullivan is Verdi’s “Otello” on Oct 17 and Wagner’s “Tannhauser” on Oct 31.