Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)
Il trovatore - an opera in four acts (1853)
Sondra Radvanovsky (soprano) - Leonora, Marcelo Alvarez (tenor) - Manrico, Dolora Zajick (mezzo) - Azucena, Dmitri Hvorostovsky (baritone) - Count di Luna, Stefan Kocán (bass)
Metropolitan Opera Chorus, Metropolitan Opera Orchestra/Marco Armiliato
rec. HD transmission on 30 April 2011
Production: David McVicar
PCM Stereo and DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
1080i high definition / 16:9
All regions
English (including menu language)
Italian, German, English, French, Spanish, Chinese
Introduction by Renée Fleming
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON BLU-RAY 0734797 [143:00 + 7:00 (extras)]
As familiar as Il trovatore is in modern opera repertoire, an outstanding performance like the one on this disc makes the work seem new and exciting. The all-star cast of this Metropolitan Opera HD transmission consists of consummate Verdians in an insightful production by David McVicar. This recording of Trovatore stands apart for its consistent quality, dramatic pitch, exquisite sound and visual appeal, all captured in a live performance. Through this stellar presentation, the details that make Il trovatore meaningful fit into place to sharpen the work’s dramatic and musical dimensions.
While Verdi’s libretto is set in fifteenth-century Spain, this production moves the action to the late-eighteenth to early nineteenth-century. The choice allows the design to echo in the tableaux the images found in romantic paintings by Goya and others. That visual dimension contributes to the overall effect and captures the spirit of the narrative that Verdi had already put into sound. For this production, the Met exploit the visual scale of its immense stage to great effect. The broadcast conveys this well, while it also suggests intimate scenes through various cameras on the stage and above it. The listener is not just in the Met’s spacious house, but inside the production with intimate shots comparable to the kind found in feature films. Yet the musical performance stands out, starting with the impressive leadership of conductor Marco Armiliato. Armiliato conveys the style of the score from the outset, with a fine sense of balance and shading. His tempos lend themselves to the clear presentation of text and also permits phrasing that allows for a persuasive treatment of the vocal lines and a deft treatment of the accompaniment. This well-considered reading merits attention for its response to the score along with the abilities of the performers.
Among the principals, the troubadour of the title, Manrico is portrayed well by Marcelo Alvarez, whose passion and musicianship vividly display his character. His offstage singing is as enticing for the audience as it is for Leonora. His involvement in the trio with Leonora and Count di Luna, “Di geloso amor sprezzato” is powerful on its own merits and for the way in which Alvarez and the principals build the musical climaxes to give an aural dimension to the drama. His sense of musical line fits aptly with the dramatic bent of Manrico. This emerges well in the third act aria “Ah! Si, ben mio” and especially in Manrico’s duet with Leonora “Miserere”.
In the role of Leonora. Sondra Radvanovsky is at the top of her form vocally and dramatically, with consistently breathtaking musicality and stage presence. As precise as her delivery is throughout the performance it is also stunning for the sense of timing which allows it to sound spontaneous. Her scene with Ines in the first act sets the tone for Leonora, which leads to the passionate trio “Anima mea” in which Count di Luna intrudes upon her assignation with Manrico. The shocking revelation of the Count’s presence instead of Manrico not only jolts Leonora, but Leonora’s declaration of love stuns Manrico, since it should be aimed at him, not this rival. The Count’s duplicity polarizes both Manrico and Leonora, as acted well by Alvarez and Radvanovsky. Here the die is cast, as the three principals decide to follow their passions to resolve the conflicts. Radvanovsky’s intensity catches fire here, as the drama takes shape not only in the “Miserere” with Manrico, but also the subsequent duet with Count di Luna “Mira, di acerbe lagrime”.
As Count di Luna, Dmitri Hvorostovsky is powerful in his creation of the ruthless character who is obsessed with Leonora. The tragic qualities of the Count emerge in this conception of the role, which benefits from the pre-eminent musicianship of Hvorostovsky. In the duet “Il trovatore!” Hvorostovsky gives a fine delivery of the familiar piece, which is nicely contrasted with Alvarez’s counterpoint. The other ensembles are equally convincing, with the culminating scene between the Count and Leonora setting up the final quartet, with Hvorostovsky’s obsessive behaviour fueling the result.
Dolora Zajick’s Azucena is equally strong in a role she has made her own. The famous aria “Strida la vampa!” is intensely moving, as if the character came to life on stage. In her interactions with Alvarez, Zajick maintains her dramatic and musical intensity. This climaxes in the duet “Madre, non dormi”, which is vivid in its evocation of the events that precede the action of this drama. The memories that Azucena brings forth propel her to the dénouement, where Zajick hauntingly delivers the gypsy’s final words.
These performances come together brilliantly in this impressive recording. With the nicely balanced Met orchestra reproduced effectively here, the sound sometimes evokes the carefully voiced balances of studio recordings. Yet this is a live performance in which the musicians’ fine interactions add to the excitement. While some would hold that Il trovatore requires the finest principals for an effective performance, this recording also suggests that the sense of theatricality Verdi infused in this score affects the singers and drives them to give the intensely moving performances found in this exceptional release. More than that, the visual dimensions are enhanced with shots and angles that take the viewer to the stage. It is difficult not to become involved in this production through this well-crafted disc.
James L Zychowicz 

These performances come together brilliantly in this impressive recording.