Thursday, May 19, 2011

Met Live in HD Review; Trovatore with 5-star 4-tet. Also David (McVcar) versus Goliath?

"Everybody's CRAZY in this opera," said Dolora Zajick during the Met Live in HD intermission interview. "Crazy with passion and madness: some are mad with love, some are mad with revenge, and some are just insane."

The central characters in this opera are pressurized and we feel their frictions through extended arias that each map emotions over changing terrains. Trovatore requires a first-rate vocal quartet in its primary roles and this Met production delivered a 5-star ensemble. It was centered on Zajick, who made her Met debut with the role of Azucena in 1988, and who gave a detailed and vivid portrayal of this detailed and vivid character.

Zajick was joined by tenor Marcelo Álvarez as Manrico, Sondra Radvanovsky as Leonora, and the great  Dmitri Hvorostovsky as Count di Luna.

Álvarez impressed with high quality quiet singing in his third act aria which made the dramatic gestures in the lines seem almost super human. Radvanovsky impressed with singing that sounded the edges of crying. She made us care about Leonora; a character in some productions that comes across as having too much free time. Hvorostovsky was so likeable and charismatic that it was hard to hate Di Luna even after a couple of old-school murders.

Contributing significantly to the ability of the singers to shape this performance was a creative production concept by David McVicar. Part of the complexity of this opera is that it was written as a series of episodic discoveries. McVicar allowed these episodes to be seamless by setting two scenes on a rotating disc that moved back and forth to allow one scene to meld into the next. This concept intensified the feel of the narrative.

This rotating disc helped tell the story. This kind of technology is lost in the fuss surrounding the Lepage machine. But the McVicar production used technology to improve the impact of the singing and to teach us something new about the possibilities of the opera narrative itself.  Can the same be said of the Lepage production?

Here is a battle of David (McVicar) versus Goliath (Lepage).

Where do you stand in this debate? Has the Lepage machine contributed to the way we understand Rheingold and/or Walküre? In spite of the injuries, the misfires, the expenses, will this production become the new operatic paradigm? Both productions were memorable for having fabulous casts with exceptional singing, but which production ultimately told the story better?

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