Home » Opera and Ballet » Review : Il Trovatore at the Royal Opera House – 2nd July 2016

Review : Il Trovatore at the Royal Opera House – 2nd July 2016

160629_2329 FRANCESCO MELI AS MANRICO, LIANNA HAROUTOUNIAN AS LEONORA © ROH. PHOTO BY CLIVE BARDA

Lianna Haroutounian as Leonora;Francesco Meli as Manrico; © ROH Photograph: Clive Barda

The Royal Opera House present David Bösch’s new production of Verdi’s ever popular opera which marks the German director’s Royal Opera debut. The production also sees the debut of the acclaimed Italian conductor,  Gianandrea Noseda conducting the Orchestra of Royal Opera House.

Verdi was in a purple patch of creativity when he wrote Il trovatore after the success of Rigoletto and just before the premiere of La traviata. Il trovatore is based on Antonio García Gutiérrez’s play El trovador (1836) and librettist Salvadore Cammarano and Verdi worked together to produce a work of great drama and energy. Unfortunately Cammarano died before Il trovatore had its premiere at Rome’s Teatro Apollo in 1853. The opera was considered a great success by the critics and the audience and has been a firm favourite ever since.

The original play and opera located the action in a medieval power struggle, Bösch’s new production transposes the action to a more modern setting in an unnamed country with a video screen providing images that are often symbolic of the action or the underlying themes.

160627_1529 IL TROVATORE, PRODUCTION IMAGE © ROH. PHOTO BY CLIVE BARDA

Il Trovatore Photo: © ROH Photograph: Clive Barda

The production opens with Count di Luna’s men huddled around a tank, they are on the look out for Manrico, the Count’s rival in love for the affections of Leonara. Whilst waiting, a battle weary Ferrando (Maurizio Muraro), one of the Count’s officers tells the story of how the infant brother of the Count was abducted which led to a gypsy being arrested for witchcraft and being burned at the stake. Although a charred remains of a baby was found in the gypsy’s funeral pyre, the Count had not lost hope of fulfilling his father’s request of finding his brother.

160629_2062 LIANNA HAROUTOUNIAN AS LEONORA © ROH. PHOTO BY CLIVE BARDA

Lianna Haroutounian as Leonora;Jennifer Davis as Ines Photo: © ROH Photograph: Clive Barda

The second scene in a blackened garden with a few white flowers in the palace has Leonora (Lianna Haroutounian) telling her companion Ines (Jennifer Davis) about her love for a troubadour, Manrico who serenades her every night. Ines who is aware of the Count’s feelings  tries to warn Leonora of the dangers of the relationship before the appearance of both the Count and Manrico which eventually leads to a duel.

160629_2082 LIANNA HAROUTOUNIAN AS LEONORA, FRANCESCO MELI AS MANRICO, ŽELJKO LUČIĆ AS COUNT DI LUNA © ROH. PHOTO BY CLIVE BARDA

Željko Lučić as Count di Luna;Lianna Haroutounian as Leonora;Francesco Meli as Manrico; © ROH Photograph: Clive Barda

With these back stories of revenge and a love triangle in place, the stage is now set for the drama to develop and the main characters to fulfil their own destinies. In a short period of light relief, the appearance of circus and other bizarre characters  in the gypsy camp offers some colour and warmth even if the fires that burn are in old oil cans. In front of an old caravan, obsessed Azucena (Ekaterina Semenchuk) recalls the horror of her mother’s death in the fire and vows to avenge her and shows her motherly love for Manrico. She also tells Manrico that it was her mother’s own child who perished in the fire and the Count’s son survived. The arrival of Ruiz ( David Junghoon Kim) with the news that Leonora is about to enter a convent to became a nun sets off a chain of events that has tragic consequences for all involved.

160629_2112 IL TROVATORE, PRODUCTION IMAGE © ROH. PHOTO BY CLIVE BARDA

Il Trovatore Photo: © ROH Photograph: Clive Barda

For all the twists and turns of the plot, it is the love triangle that is at the centre of the drama, Francesco Meli’s charismatic Manrico provided plenty of passion and colour in his pronouncements of love for Leonora, Lianna Haroutounian’s Leonora balanced passion with reason as she illustrated her conflict of struggling to find love in an impossible situation. In many ways the role of Count di Luna is much more complex and to his credit, Željko Lučić managed to convey a coldness and emptiness until he shows his warmer side when he sings of his love for Leonora with Il balen del suo sorriso. The high quality of the singing was matched by the flawless conducting by Gianandrea Noseda who managed to bring the best out of the orchestra and chorus maintaining the high energy and dramatic atmosphere to the end.

Fire was a theme that provided a constant background to the production and was used with wonderful effect by set and video designer Patrick Bannwart and lighting designer Olaf Winter. Costume designer Meentje Nielsen provided a mainly black and white contrast with the main characters but provided an explosion of colour in the gypsy camp.

160629_2466 IL TROVATORE, PRODUCTION IMAGE © ROH. PHOTO BY CLIVE BARDA

Il Trovatore Photo: © ROH Photograph: Clive Barda

Bösch’s production may offer some surprises in its use of stark realism and imagery but stays true to the original idea of how civil wars can bring out the worst elements of humanity. It is within these cauldrons of hate and revenge that love stands little chance of surviving and the appearance of a burning  heart at the end perhaps suggests there are only losers if you follow this path. The Royal Opera House audience responded enthusiastically to this imaginative and fast moving production which runs until the 17th July.

Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended

For more information or to buy tickets, visit the Royal Opera House website here

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