For the music alone, you can't beat Verdi's "Il Trovatore," with a demanding string of arias that, in the right hands (or voices) can raise the rafters. But when it comes to the action, you must suspend your disbelief at the door--or stay home and watch the Marx Brothers have fun with it in "A Night at the Opera."
David McVicar's handsome 2009 production for the Metropolitan Opera, seen on January 24, is worth seeing, as it undoubtedly will be for many years. While updating the setting from Spain in 1409 to the 19th century War of Independence doesn't add much to the action, it did gave McVicar and his designer Charles Edwards an excuse to use Goya's "The Disasters of War" etchings as inspiration for the set and curtain, and it is remarkably effective.
The tall, rotating unit set looms over the stage and works quite well in moving the action along seamlessly, whether from the castle, the gypsy camp, a cloister's courtyard or a dungeon. A couple of the scenes use a dramatic staircase that might have looked good on paper, and while it looks impressive, it proved a challenge for some of the characters to descend without looking nervous.
The costumes by Brigitte Reiffenstuel are handsome, though it's hard to see why Leonora, well sung by soprano Patricia Racette, is so busy changing clothes before and after she readies herself for the convent. Racette made a sympathetic heroine, full voiced and completely involved. She sang with spirit and charm and all the high notes, coloratura and modulation that the role demands, especially in "Tacea la notte placida..." and "D'amor sull'ali rosee." She acted with conviction--a challenge for anyone in this overly melodramatic piece.
Richard Sasanow is a long-time writer on art, music, food, travel and international business for publications including The New York Times, The Guardian (UK), Town & Country and Travel & Leisure, among many others. He also interviewed some of the great singers of the 20th century for the programs at the San Francisco Opera and San Diego Opera and worked on US tours of the Orchestre National de France and Vienna State Opera, conducted by Lorin Maazel, Zubin Mehta and Leonard Bernstein. |