Robert Carsen and Set designer Paul Steinberg have built an
enormous modern industrial plant, possibly an oil platform,
on the floating stage on Lake Constance. There’s smoke, fire,
more fire and even more fire; very spectacular indeed, and of
course fire is a key element in Il trovatore. It plays
an important part in the gypsy camp, Azucena is supposed to
burn at the stake and symbolically hot feelings, both love and
hate, burn in the hearts of the main characters. But does it
work here in this opera, set in days long gone by? As so often
the modern setting jars with the text. An example is where Manrico
comes running with Kalashnikov in hand, shouting for a horse,
Leonora makes her first entrance in party dress, driven in a
limousine and Luna arrives in a motor boat. At the same time
there are many scenes that do work, for example when Manrico
and his guerrilla soldiers let themselves down with ropes from
the upper part of the multi-storey plant and take Count Luna
and his men by surprise. Rather soon one disregards the setting
and concentrates on the play, the human conflicts. Occasionally
one reflects on the cruelty of the original story from many
hundreds of years ago, which here becomes a mirror of our own
time. We have left the primitive world far behind, we can build
complicated, technically advanced factories like the one on
stage but deep inside we are just as mentally and morally primitive.
Our world is just as cruel as Manrico’s – we just have more
sophisticated means to carry through our cruelty.
is a lot of walking along gangways, climbing stairs up and down
but it soon becomes apparent that these are no transportations
at random and as the drama unfolds Carsen shows us real human
beings of flesh and blood. The mass-scenes (the soldiers and
the gypsies), are strikingly choreographed and the lighting
is also evocative. The stage is enormous and I believe that
the audience, sitting at considerable distance, could hardly
see very much in the way of facial expressions. On the other
hand the production for video quite often catches the singers
in close-up. The distance and the outdoor settings also require
the singers to employ microphones; today we are so used to seeing
them in all kinds of shows and theatre productions. Strangely
enough in the second scene of act 1 there were no microphones
and it looked like playback. I don’t know if it was pre-recorded
or whether something went wrong during the performances and
that they had to do some mopping up afterwards.
sound is never less than good but there are some echo effects,
possibly due to the amplification of the voices. There are no
complaints concerning the singing of the chorus and the playing
of the Wiener Symphoniker but the conducting is slightly uneven
with several too slow tempos.
has been said that to achieve a successful Trovatore performance
one need only gather the five best singers in the world. Carsen
hasn’t quite that but he has a handful of first class actors
who can also sing. The deepest, most penetrating portrait is
no doubt Marianne Cornetti’s Azucena. Every expression, every
movement is so well thought out to make a full-size personification
of the old gypsy woman. She also sings well, even though the
tone can be glaring at times. The scene with Manrico in the
final act is on the other hand vocally deeply moving.
Tanner’s Manrico has a shaky start. He is strong-voiced but
severely strained, even wobbly. He improves through the course
of the opera but Ah! si ben mio, which is a lyrical
love song is just loud and shaky. A couple of minutes later
he makes amends and sings an impressively heroic and brilliant
Di quella pira.
the best singing comes from his beloved Leonora. Iano Tamar,
born in Georgia, has a true lirico spinto voice with dramatic
heft but also ravishing pianissimos. Her act 4 aria is certainly
the vocal high-point of the whole performance and her duet with
Luna a little later in the act is another moment to savour.
Lučić, born in former Yugoslavia and member of the
Frankfurt Opera, has made a name for himself especially in Verdi
roles. He has sung Macbeth at the Metropolitan this year (2007).
His Luna is both lyrical and vengefully histrionic. Il balen
is a love song that is often bawled to pieces but he finds all
the nuances and the warmth.
Ferrando Giovanni Battista Parodi sports a black bass and he
is yet another expressive actor.
the box cover I had my doubts before putting the first disc
in the player but after some time I warmed to the performance
and I ended up liking it very much. The sets still feel more
gimmicky than dramatically convincing but I couldn’t help admiring
the inventiveness and some really spectacular scenes.