Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples
Verdi, Il Trovatore
The Trusts Community Foundation
Opera in Concert
New Zealand Opera Chorus
Auckland Town Hall
Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples
A couple of weeks ago we heard four great singers on stage singing Verdi’s Requiem in the Auckland Town Hall – Gustavo Porta, Erika Grimaldi, Olesya Petrova and Petri Lindroos. That tremendous concert was only their warmup to last Saturday’s triumphant performance of Verdi’s Il Trovatore in which they all exceeded expectations.
Central to the story of Il Trovatore is the image of a woman being burned at the stake. This image of flames devouring a human being dominates much of the story and the characters of the opera. The twin notions of the flames of love and the flames of destruction are ever present.
The opera takes place during a Civil War in Spain and has two intertwined stories. One is centred around Azucena and her quest for vengeance against the Count di Luna for burning her mother at the stake because she had bewitched the count’s infant brother.
The other plot concerns a love triangle between the count who is pursuing Leonora, who is actually in love with the troubadour and rebel leader, Manrico, who serenades Leonora.
The count challenges Manrico to a duel, but Manrico is unable to kill the count despite gaining the advantage. Azucena is revealed as Manrico’s mother and then it turns out he is the infant brother the count believed was dead so when the count executes Manrico, Azucena has her revenge by declaring that the count has killed his own brother.
The imagery of the devouring flame is heard at its best at the beginning of the second act when the vengeful Azucena, sung by Olesya Petrova recalls the fire that killed her mother in the aria “Stride la Vampa” (“the flames are roaring). She describes her drive to see vengeance on Count di Luna, singing that “The dreadful memory torments me -It makes my blood run cold.”
Her telling of the horrific tale would have made the audiences own blood run cold as well. She also conveyed the idea of the obsessed gypsy being driven mad by her memories in a vital and nuanced emotional delivery.
Soprano Erika Grimaldi was an impressive Leonora with a heavenly voice which, along with her facial and body language was able to express a sense of ecstasy when singing of her love for Manrico.
Gustavo Porta as Manrico had a commanding stage presence with a robust voice which captured a sense of the heroic along with that of the ardent lover.
Simone Piazzola as the Conte di Luna gave a great performance expressing his jealous rage. His sharp looks and menacing gestures were the embodiment of the ruthless, spurned suitor verging on mad man. His ability to reach and hold high notes without being forced was very impressive.
In the first act when the two men and Leonora sang about love and death, they gave an inspiring and moving account.
In the third act when Manrico and Leanora sing of their love, the two singers and orchestra merged in a spine tingling display. Then in the final moments of the opera Leonora’s sweet, anguished voice erupted, soaring above the orchestra, as though in the throes of passion.
The chorus did a splendid job notably in the popular Anvil Chorus where their singing of “Vedi! Le fosche notturne spoglie” (the sky reveals her nightly garb) reinforced the flame imagery.
In the minor roles Petri Lindroos as Ferrando made his bold entrance from the auditorium, striding up the aisle displaying an elegant manner with precise gestures and a authoritative voice while Morag Atchison’s Ines was nice foil to Leonora
Throughout the performance conductor Giordano Bellincampi ensured that the orchestra served the needs of the singers, providing them with the necessary emotional emphasis and musical drama.