Il trovatore - Metropolitan Opera, 11 November 2010
And the message is - make sure you chuck the right baby on the bonfire. That's about all I took home from David McVicar's disappointing Il trovatore. Although the programme (free as usual - a nice Met touch) blathers on proudly about the Goya-inspired 19th century update, it's really an admission of defeat. The Peninsular War was a time of massacre, famine and atrocities, as Goya unblinkingly documents. Surely they couldn't have spared the time to burn witches. What you get essentially is the same old heaving bosoms and fancy jerkins and aimless dashing around as any other production. Plus an ugly revolving ruin of a set and annoyingly dim lighting.
Marco Armiliato was no more inspired in the pit, perhaps opting for caution with three of the central roles filled by the B cast. At least there were a couple of pleasant surprises to be found there. Di Luna was Vitaliy Bilyy, a true Verdi baritone with a warm, open tone and the ability to sculpt a phrase. The sound is not quite as beautiful as Hvorostovsky's, but still very impressive.
Julianna Di Giacomo's Leonora was a more qualified success. Her voice is large, beautiful, accurate and steady, but its girlish gleam lacks the heft and body this role really needs, and she sounded uncomfortable at the top. Another big minus was her shortness of breath - whole notes disappeared mid-line as she gasped for air. I suspect she'd impress more in a lighter role - and in a frock more flattering to her expansive waistline.
Alfred Kim powered his way through Manrico without much spark. He undoubtedly has the right sized-voice for the role, but it's only a couple of years since he filled in for Jonas Kaufmann in Covent Garden's Don Carlo, and already his lyric tenor is sounding frayed at the edges.
Marianne Cornetti plays Azucena throughout the run. The wide vibrato is an issue, but for a thoughtful portrayal that wisely fights shy of witchy caricature I suppose it's a small price to pay.
Not one I'll be fighting to see again in a hurry.