Monday, March 7, 2016

Sunday at the Opera - Winter Opera Co presents "Il Trovatore"

     Sometimes opera can be fun!  And yesterday the production of "Il Trovatore" was fun.  The 3+ hours went by quickly as Winter Opera's outstanding production and performance of this "warhorse" opera proceeded.  It was fun, because - first of all - musically it was very well sung and performed.  The orchestra was good, the chorus was good and all of the principals were great.  It was fun because (as usual) the sets and lighting were spectacular (I continue to be amazed at the outstanding work of set designer Scott Loebl and lighting designer Sean Savoie - they do so much with what I can only assume is a tight budget).  It was fun because the stage director did not try to apologize for the melodramatic and rather convoluted plot but took it seriously and presented it seriously.  There was no - "yes I know this is crazy, but it's opera, so just bear with us" here.  Every single member of the company I felt was totally invested in telling this story - from the leading principals who fully inhabited their roles to the chorus and even the smaller roles - like Ruiz - running panic-stricken offstage to gather the forces to rescue Azucena like he was really going to rescue Azucena!  Did I notice little things - yes, there were a few coordination issues between pit and stage, and yes there were a few cuts.  But they didn't matter at all.  This was a terrific afternoon at the opera.  And to top it all off it looked to me like they had a very large audience.  Great!  Congratulations!  Gina Galati and all of the folks at Winter Opera deserve a huge congratulations on what they have accomplished. Bravi tutti!

     Just a couple notes about the cast.  The stand out for me was Claudia Chapa as Azucena, which is probably my favorite character in this opera anyway.  I felt that Claudia really was outstanding in every way.  She had the low register and the high notes when needed.  Her acting was great and she was appropriately creepy and mysterious.  Her "son" Manrico was played by Jorge Pita Carreras and I really enjoyed his performance too.  He infused Manrico with a little of that Di Luna arrogance. Sometimes Manrico is played like nice guy Cavaradossi, but that I think is wrong.  Manrico has di Luna blood, he should not be so different in temperament from the Count and this tenor got it just right!  His "di quella pira" was excellent.  True he left out the interjections during the chorus "allarmi" section, but so do every other tenor, except Pavarotti.  But, this is the first time in a while that have actually heard the tenor sing both syllables of "ala........rmi" on the high C at the end.  Even at the Met (where there is no excuse for this I think) the tenors have taken to singing "allahhhhhh". So bravo for singing the word the way it should be.  This is the 3rd time I have seen Neil Nelson, the bass baritone who performed as the Count di Luna.  So far it has been Leporello, Hagen(!) and now the Count.  Certainly an interesting collection of characters.  And all of them were well performed. Nelson has remarkable stage presence and he can be truly menacing on stage.  Vocally he has a wonderfully rich bass-baritone which suited Leporello and Hagen very well.  At times I felt he was on the edge in terms of range for di Luna.  But he never wavered and really sang the role beautifully. The final singer was Maria Kanyova as Leonora and again she sang beautifully and truly inhabited the role. At times she seemed to struggle a bit with support in the softer sections, but her act 4 string of aria, ensemble, duet was very well done indeed.  The Miserere, BTW, was a high point for me.  I have to mention Clark Sturdevant who has a very beautiful voice and did a terrific job with the rather small and unsatisfying role of Ruiz and Antoine Hodge was excellent as Ferrando and managed that difficult opening scene with complete control.

     Was there some kind of amplification going on? There seemed to be an issue with a speaker at the beginning of act 2.  It was perplexing.  But luckily it was over quick.

     So again, Bravi tutti!  Yesterday was a great day at the opera.  I am anxious to hear what next year's schedule will include.  Well done Winter Opera!

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