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Giuseppe VERDI (1813–1901)
Il trovatore (1853)
Carl Tanner (tenor) – Manrico; Iano Tamar (soprano) – Leonora; Željko Lučić (baritone) Il Conte di Luna; Marianne Cornetti (mezzo) – Azucena; Giovanni Battista Parodi (bass) – Ferrando; Deanne Meek (mezzo) – Inez; José Luis Ordonez (tenor) – Ruiz;
Moscow Chamber Choir, Bregenzer Festspielchor, Wiener Symphoniker/Thomas Rösner
Stage director: Robert Carsen; Set Designer: Paul Steinberg; Dramaturgy: Ian Burton; Choreography: Philippe Giraudeau; Costume designer: Miruna Boruzescu; Lighting designer: Patrick Woodroffe; TV director: François Roussillon
rec. live, floating stage, Lake Constance, Bregenz Festival, 9, 13 August 2006
Extra features: Illustrated synopsis, cast gallery and ‘A Stage on the Lake’, interviews with Robert Carsen and Paul Steinberg
OPUS ARTE OA 0974 D 2 DVDs: [155:00] 

Director 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.

There 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.

The 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.

It 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.

Carl 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.

Quite 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.

Željko 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.

As Ferrando Giovanni Battista Parodi sports a black bass and he is yet another expressive actor.

Seeing 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.

Göran Forsling

 

 


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