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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, January 18, 2019 - Volume 47 Issue 03
Angela Meade lights up a dark Trovatore at Seattle Opera
Arts & Entertainment
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Angela Meade lights up a dark Trovatore at Seattle Opera

by Alice Bloch - SGN A&E Writer

SEATTLE OPERA
IL TROVATORE
BY GUISEPPE VERDI
LIBRETTO BY
SALVATORE CAMMARANO
MARION OLIVER MCCAW HALL
January 13
(same cast on 1/19, 23 & 26)


Il Trovatore is an opera blessed by Verdi's wonderful music and burdened by Cammarano's bad libretto, with a plot that mostly takes place in the past or between the scenes and therefore must be explained at length by the characters. There are eight scene changes without any music to occupy the audience's attention during the long intervals. There are laughably awkward lines like 'Tell us again about &' and 'I must save her! She was my mother long before I loved you.'

On top of that, the world of this opera is bleak and violent. A senseless civil war is raging. Romani women, suspected of witchcraft, are regularly rounded up for abuse. One of those women, Azucena, is tortured by memories of her mother burning at the stake and her own failed attempt at revenge, in which she mistakenly throws her own baby into the fire (an event I once heard described as 'the biggest 'oops' in opera'). At the end of the opera, the only major character still alive is the villain, Count Di Luna, who has just unknowingly killed his own brother.

Stage director Dan Wallace Miller's production, now playing at Seattle Opera, emphasizes brutality and gore to the max. During the overture, a soldier pursues a man toward the back of the stage, plunges his sword into the man's midsection, slits the man's throat, and casually throws him into a pit, behind which we see a huge pile of corpses (which remain onstage throughout the performance). This kind of gruesome, over-the-top violence pervades the production.

If the production was dark, the performance of the Sunday matinee cast was splendid and luminous. As Azucena, mezzo-soprano Nora Sourouzian sang and acted superbly, conveying the extreme distress of a persecuted character haunted by trauma. If General Director Aidan Lang had not announced that tenor Martin Muehle was suffering from a cold, no one would have suspected it. Muehle sang the demanding role of Manrico, Azucena's adopted son, with great energy and focus.

Baritone Michael Mayes was a perfect Count Di Luna, delving into his villainous role with abandon. He sang the quieter passages beautifully, but had a bit of a harsh sound when singing more loudly.

The top performance, by a long shot, was that of soprano Angela Meade. The sheer beauty of her singing had me in tears more than once. Her tone was gorgeous from top to bottom of her considerable range. Her trill shimmered, and her soft high notes floated above the orchestra to perfection. Her acting was fine, but I would probably have enjoyed her performance just as much with my eyes closed.

The always excellent Seattle Opera chorus outdid itself. Not only did it sound terrific, but the choristers threw themselves into physical performance to an extent I've rarely seen. Their challenging slow-motion and stop-action moments were dramatically powerful and showed an amazing level of physical discipline. Kudos to choreographer Kathryn Van Meter and Fight Director Geoffrey Alm for creating those arresting scenes.

Conductor Carlo Montanaro led the large orchestra, cast, and chorus at a brisk pace, with spot-on accurate synchronization of the singers and musicians. The orchestra has never sounded better. I am unable to single out a particular musician or section for praise, because all were outstanding.

John Conklin's set from the 1994 production of Norma served well in this Trovatore, and Candace Frank's costumes were apt and attractive. Christophe Forey's lighting was extremely effective.

For more information and to buy tickets, go to seattleopera.org.

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