Today I went to the Met movie and saw Verdi’s Il Trovatore in an HD simulcast. It was done with such perfection that I’ll remember it as a high point in the whole of my opera-going experience. If the Maestro was watching from above, he would have been very pleased. It was first and foremost completely entertaining.
The action clipped along, although I remember past performances dragging. The toe-tapping melodies followed one after another. But, the secret of this performance’s singular success was its dream cast.
Argentinean tenor Marcelo Álvarez played Manrico as feisty and fiery with a handsome, strong, and sure voice. His acting was pure emotion: anger, love, loyalty. In his backstage interview he was so demonstrative and colorful, showing a lot of affection toward Sondra Radvanovsky, his Leonora, with whom he said he loved working. In a way he seemed to still be in character, or maybe he is just a lot like Manrico: colorful and dramatic.
Sondra Radvanovsky is the red hot Verdian soprano of right now! She has legato for days, incredible control, a beautiful tone, creamy timbre, and is a convincing actress. She has it all and I could listen to her sing all day. This part called for it all: loud and soft, high and low, bel canto trills and long even tones, all contributing to the drama.
Dmitri Hvorostovsky sang Count di Luna, the other man who loves Leonora. The Russian baritone seems to get more handsome with the years, and his beautiful voice is always so moving. He was an intensely sexy bad guy as he smoldered with anger, then lust. An impeccable singer and actor, he is riveting to watch.
The challenging and intense role of the gypsy Azucena is owned by American mezzo-soprano Dolora Zajick and has been for many years. It was mentioned today that she made her debut at the Met in this role in 1988. Her voice is superb and she has it in complete control in service to her character portrayal. She shows us Azucena as a loving mother, a fierce outsider, a survivor haunted by past events, and a daughter seized by revenge to the point of being demented. It was an inspired performance. It really looks and feels like the real thing.
There was more applause and shouting in the movie theatre than I remember hearing for a long time. It was one of those rare occasions when everything comes together just right. The pace was perfect and without pauses between scenes – thanks to the technology of the rotating stage set. The story is so intensely emotional in every scene, and no time was given to rest, so we in the audience were just as caught up in the frenzy of feeling as the characters were.
Wow! What a day at the opera!