Friday, July 05, 2013

Bayerische Staatsoper Il Trovatore

Conductor Paolo Carignani
Production Olivier Py

Conte di Luna: Alexey Markov
Leonora: Anja Harteros
Azucena: Elena Manistina
Manrico: Jonas Kaufmann
Ferrando: Kwangchul Youn
Ines: Golda Schultz
Ruiz: Francesco Petrozzi

It was a lot of fun watching the stream of Il Trovatore from the Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich.  Nowadays the European producers are all ex-psychoanalysts.  Everything happens for some deep psychological reason which we then display on the stage.  And what better reason for this treatment than the twisted motives of Il Trovatore?

Count di Luna's father killed Azucena's gypsy mother because she looked at his new born son?  This is another racial hatred plot.  When people in white cone hats show up, we Americans imagine it has something to do with the Ku Klux Klan, but my sources say this is supposed to represent the inquisition.  Azucena spends the rest of her life trying to avenge her mother's death.  In our production Azucena's mother is constantly present on the stage in the person of a thin skeletal woman with long blond hair (ballet, I think).  We aren't allowed to forget her importance in the story.

So Manrico is also a mess.  Azucena tells him that in a frenzy she threw her own son into her mother's flames.  "So then who am I?" he asks.  He is a warrior and a singer and a lover and a very confused guy.  Early in the opera he tries to kill di Luna but something prevents him.

Count di Luna has the mysterious ghost of his lost brother whom rumor would tell us is not dead but kidnapped by the gypsies.  Of course, this brother is Manrico.  It's interesting that I am interested in the plot of this opera for the first time.

This leaves Leonora, the romantic object of both Manrico and di Luna.  How can we make her more complicated, too?  In this production she is blind, making her mistaking di Luna for Manrico more  believable.

There is a stage within a stage which in the anvil scene contains a large cylinder that someone beats on.  It's something to make noise when there are no anvils.  Though not in the score, the anvils are such a firm tradition that no one but Muti ever leaves them out.  The following scene included real nudity by a dancer in the small stage.  Only her shoes remain after she removes her clothes.  I am tempted to digress into nudity at the opera, but will resist.

We are not here for the production, interesting as it may be.  Anja Harteros doesn't really like to travel and is most at home performing in her home house, the Bayerische Staatsoper.  She was simply magnificent and received the most accolades.  I shouted a few bravas at my computer for fun.  This is how we like our Verdi.  The soprano dominates the ensembles with the natural force of her voice and not through shouting and distortion of the tone.  Her phrasing is a joy.  I am a fan.

There was a fuss because Jonas Kaufmann sang "di quella pira" a half tone down.  This is an established operatic tradition every bit as firmly established as the anvils.  Muti leaves out the uncomposed high C that makes this transposition necessary.  Jonas's performance of this aria was exciting.  I listened to this opera in a pirated recording earlier in the week, and I liked him a lot more in this performance.  His confused Manrico was very sympathetic.

They put together an excellent cast for this.  Is Munich now the center of the operatic universe?

P.S.  I see in the teaser a lot more nudity than I saw on the stream. This specific performance is not really suitable for DVD release because while Frau Harteros was generally wonderful, she fudged most of her high notes, perhaps the conductor's fault.

In the teaser the director says that the production is supposed to be a nightmare.  Does that make it less horrible?

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