OPERA NEWS - Il Trovatore
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In Review > North America

Il Trovatore

NEW YORK CITY
The Metropolitan Opera
9/25/15

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Štefan Kocán, Dolora Zajick and Dmitri Hvorostovsky as Conte di Luna in the Met's current revival of Il Trovatore
© Marty Sohl/Metropolitan Opera
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Anna Netrebko and Hvorostovsky
© Marty Sohl/Metropolitan Opera
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Yonghoon Lee's Manrico with Netrebko
© Marty Sohl/Metropolitan Opera

The opening night of the Met’s Trovatore revival on September 25 will surely go down as one of this season’s more triumphant evenings. Among much superlative singing by three superstar artists, the palm for both bravery and artistic achievement must go to Dmitri Hvorostovsky, whose elegant Conte di Luna opened this production here in 2009. He has rarely sounded suaver or more confident in plush, marbled phrasing. The audience, fully cognizant that the Siberian baritone has been undergoing treatment for a brain tumor, rewarded him with a huge ovation when he took the stage. After a few seconds, ever the professional but clearly touched, Hvorostovsky nodded briefly to continue the show. A magical “Il balen” was rewarded with another torrent of applause and cheers, as was Hvorostovsky’s curtain call. Later, with all the principals gathered, conductor Marco Armiliato pushed Hvorostovsky out for another bow; the house—standing—roared approval, and a volley of roses rocketed up from the orchestra pit. 

Hvorostovsky gave an unforgettable performance, but it was by no means the evening’s only delight. Anna Netrebko came onstage prepared to do justice to every aspect of Leonora’s music—long arching lines, soaring rich sound, trills, strength in every register, tripping ease in “Vivrà! Contende il giubilo” and glistening accuracy in taking high C and D flat. She’d worked out fine cadenzas and gamely essayed two verses of the testing cabaletta “Tu vedrai.” Looking beautiful in specially created costumes—an old-fashioned prima donna touch—Netrebko basically knocked everything out of the park vocally. One could note that she didn’t make her words especially vivid, but in this cast only Hvorostovsky managed to do so.

In 1986 I saw Dolora Zajick’s Azucena steal a San Francisco Trovatore from an international cast; her volcanic Gypsy brought the mezzo to the Met two years later. On this latest occasion, Zajick was in staggering form, singing with not only her trademark punch at register extremes but with an evenness of line and tone utterly remarkable from a singer of her experience. Her ovations bespoke not only audience loyalty but gratitude for her current excellence.

Enrico Caruso famously said that “all” Trovatore needed was the four greatest singers in the world. Three present might have fit that description; that Yonghoon Lee did not does not mean the Korean tenor didn’t offer a strong showing. An admirably plausible romantic figure onstage, Lee varied dynamics, and the softer accents of “Ah si, ben mio” and the final duet with Azucena suited him well. More stentorian portions varied as to phrasing effectiveness and tonal allure; the one-verse “Di quella pira” was rather blunt.

Štefan Kocán sang Ferrando. Great Ferrandos are rare: the line demands more bel canto finesse than Sparafucile—Kocán’s best Met part to date—and a riveting presence. The Slovak bass was highly adequate. As Inez and Ruiz, Maria Zifchak and Raúl Melo represented the Met’s small role-casting policy at it highest.

Marco Armiliato’s swift leadership was generally supportive of his cast’s possibilities; ensemble held through much of the evening, though the brass sounded less rehearsed than in the week’s preceding Otello and Turandot performances. David McVicar’s Goya-haunted, dimly lit 2009 production represents a great improvement on the Met’s previous three Trovatore productions; revived here faithfully if a little listlessly by Paula Williams, it didn’t detract from the high-voltage performance taking place. —David Shengold 

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