|A sombre spectacle|
|Welsh National Opera , Wales Millennium Centre , February 25, 2011|
Verdi's Il Trovatore has always been a singers’ opera. This is no exception with glorious singing from a fine ensemble backed by the majestic chorus and a punchy orchestra.
This revival of Peter Watson’s production that was first presented at Cardiff’s New Theatre firmly throws our attention at the four key roles. However, this is because the production is so dull there isn’t much else to interest us.
While this season’s other offering, the sparkling Die Fledermaus, is a theatrical fairground of entertainment, this is a sombre spectacle.
Designer Tim Hatley has gone for a monumental look but instead it looks more like the set is a stray strip of metal from the roof of Wales Millennium Centre found in the back builder’s yard alternating with a DIY Stonehenge.
This would not be so bad were it not for the long pauses for scene changes when frankly the cast could have just sung the whole opera with no set and no-one would have been the worse for it. If they had turned the lights on, you could even have seen the singers.
The soldiers with their baggy trousers and daft helmets looked more like old fashioned divers while the gypsies came straight out of a school musical where the mums had scrounged red fabric for bandanas.
Fortunately, the orchestra under the baton of a lively Andrea Licata, the spellbinding chorus and the principals swept away the nonsense bringing the show to life.
David Soar singing Ferrando demonstrated the continuing development and strength of this versatile singer. David Kempster was suffering from bronchitis but on the night he was solid as Di Luna and as the run develops and he recovers the passion this role requires will also develop.
As Manrico, Gwyn Hughes Jones is as comfortable with this dramatic Verdi role as he is with the Puccini that is his bread and butter. His duets with Veronica Simeoni singing Azucena were the most memorable of the evening. Simeoni is a formidable, thrilling singer who, along with the other principals, makes this worth the ticket.
Katia Pellegrino is a ravishing Leonora and gives a wonderfully sympathetic portrayal despite the constraints of the dreary production. Both she and Gwyn Hughes Jones remind us of the beauty of those glorious Verdi melodies that flow through this masterpiece.
Further performances in Wales: WMC February 26, March 1, 4; Venue Cymru, Llandudno, March 18.
Reviewed by: Mike Smith
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