Il Trovatore: Intense and
by Blanka Boschnak
by Giuseppe Verdi
Oct. 21-27, 1997
at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre
Vancouver Opera opened its 1997-98 season with Giuseppe Verdi's intense and phenomenal Il Trovatore. The opera takes place in Spain in the 15th century, and the mood is established as the curtain opens with a dark, post-modern set which serves as the backdrop throughout the remainder of the performance. Broken pillars and statues represent symbolically the unrest felt in the civil war and in the hearts of our four main characters.
Tenor Richard Margison as Il trovatore was spectacular as Manrico, the gypsy soldier who, we find out later, is the long lost son of the late Conte Di Luna. His vocal range and emotional delivery, his soulful offstage serenades and intense arias were sung without "missing a beat", as it were. He delivered with such precision that it was impossible to find fault with anything in his performance.
Mezzo Barbara Dever as Azucena was equally phenomenal not only in her vocal abilities but also in her acting. She portrayed the hag gypsy torn between the love she felt for her son and the devotion to carry out her mother's dying request. She had a powerful voice ranging from deep contra altos to sopranos with equal conviction and strength. Combined with Margison, their two voices drew the audience into another world.
Baritone Gregg Baker was an ideal choice for the role of the Conte Di Luna. His size and shape added to the menacing character of a man who was forced to live under the memory of his father not only in name but also in his life's goal to find his long lost brother. A strong and powerful man blinded by the beauty of Leonora, he is willing to destroy anyone who stands in the way of his obsession. Baker delivered in a sensitive tone, expressing his displaced emotions with excellent conviction.
Soprano Susan Foster as the lovely Leonora falls in love with the troubadour before even seeing him face to face. The count and the troubadour fight for her affections ultimately leading her to commit suicide. However, her sacrifice is in vain, and like Romeo and Juliet, her true love dies beside her only a few moments later. Foster is a good choice for the ill-fated Leonora who wants only to achieve happiness. Her performance was beautiful, although at times a bit too stressed for the subtle emotions that she was trying to convey. Her acting, however, was very adroit as a lady waiting for her true love.
Special mention should be given to the orchestra conducted by David Agler who gave a superb performance. The costume design was also very praiseworthy, in particular the blue satin dress worn by Leonora, which, when covered with the wedding veil, shimmering in the moonlight, was absolutely breathtaking.
I think an Opera that is as intense as this one is always a great challenge to present in this day and age. However, the Vancouver Opera rose to the challenge quite well, giving a good start to the new season.