Il Trovatore – Seattle Opera
Verdi’s classic opera Il Trovatore was an unusual presentation from this beloved company. Normally, I marvel at intricate sets, and the cohesion of the whole, rather than single out individuals too lustily for praise or criticism.
This review will be slightly different. The set designers kept it minimalistic as the plot probably requires. Tonight was about stars and star performers. And tonight was about those performers excelling with their singing, more than their acting.
For those of you who do not know it, the plot is typical dramatic opera fare. A gypsy curse, two men fight over one woman and a case of mistaken identity keep the story line ticking along quicker than the average opera, and it may even be that the relative compactness of this work allowed the stars who shone to shine so brightly.
Lisa Daltirus has excelled at this venue before. In 2008, she appeared in Verdi’s Aida, again alongside her co-star tonight Italian tenor Antonello Palombi. As the Queen’s Lady-in-Waiting Leonora, Ms Daltirus is the object of two men’s desire, Manrico (performed by Palombi) whom she loves, and the Count di Luna, sung by Gordon Hawkins, whom she decidedly doesn’t. Lisa has to go through a range of acting emotions and it has to be said this wasn’t her best skill. Her singing was however, and listening to her hit every note for pitch, tone and length, time after time, delighted both the opera aficionados and the less knowledgeable arts-lover in the hall. Lisa’s was a performance for all comers, and of all levels of opera knowledge. She is a joy to watch and a joy to hear.
If she had a rival as the ‘Bravo’ factor of the night, it came from an unexpected quarter. Polish mezzo-soprano Malgorzata Walewska gave the role of the cursed and cursing gypsy Azucena her all. This lady can act and sing. She has it all. She brought the part to a life beyond the story line and breathed fire into it. She even carried the character’s back-story of a beauty ravaged by a harsh life to the front of her role. Malgorzata made her Seattle Opera debut as Judith in Bluebeard’s Castle, a work which I have to admit wasn’t one of my most loved here. Tonight however, she carried a production with some strong individual performances to a higher plane.
With my co-reviewer, there was unanimity that Lisa Daltirus stole the number one slot, and Malgorzata the number two. It was ladies night indeed at the Opera. We were slightly divided over number three. My co-reviewer opted for Antonella Palombi who certainly carried a heavy workload. It’s not an easy role inasmuch as it requires several disciplines as well as pure singing. Manrico, the lover of Leonora, has to act and sword-fight and I felt this spread his talents a little thin. The hardcore opera fans seem to appreciate him a little more than the arts crowd, but this is always a possibility in an art form which requires more than one discipline such as opera.
His love rival Count di Luna was carried superbly by Gordon Hawkins, a baritone who also made his SO debut in Aida. Ring aficionados will also remember him as Donner and Gunther in the Ring Cycle last year. As the spurned and rejected lover, Count di Luna is often helpless as other people affect events. This isn’t what a man born to be a Count is used to. Hawkins portrayed this frustration at his own lack of power, with one of the more nuanced acting performances of the evening. If you’re also a fan of theatre, as I am, you will warm to his performance in Il Trovatore.
Il Trovatore Runs at Seattle Opera from January 16-30 and has not been performed here since 1997. Single tickets start at $25 and are available at www.seattleopera.org or by calling 206 389 7676.
Il Trovatore – Seattle Opera