• Some Il Trovatore productions in video media

    Il Trovatore in Video

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    This is a poorly known production from the Teatro Comunale di Bologna, from April 2005, conducted by Carlo Rizzi, with Leo Nucci as Il Conte di Luna, Dimitra Theodossiou as Leonora, Mariana Pentcheva as Azucena, Miroslave Dvorski as Manrico, Andrea Papi as Ferrando, Bernadette Lucarini as Ines, Enrico Cossuta as Ruiz, and Rafaelle Costantini as the old gipsy.

    Stage director Paul Curran. Scenarios and costumes Kevin Knight. Video director Gino Rossi.

    Hardy Classic, 16:9, region zero, subtitles in English, French, Italian, Spanish, and Japanese. Sound DTS 2.0, DTS 5.1, and DD 5.1. Running time 130'. Insert with brief essay in Italian, English, and Spanish, nothing else (no synopsis, no track list). No extras.

    Scenarios for the opening scenes are sparse and not particularly compeling, with poor lighting. The first scene with Ferrando singing Di due figli vivea padre beato gives us a funny-looking Andrea Papi whose bass voice doesn't project very well above the loud orchestra. The chorus seems good (which is essential for a successful Trovatore).

    Dimitra Theodossiou delivers a very good Tacea la notte placida and passes the difficult stretches with flying colors - she will certainly be an asset for this DVD. Bernadette Lucarini as Ines is pale in comparison but is vocally adequate without major mistakes, so far.

    Dimitra follows up with impressive and agile coloratura in Di tale amor that matches well the orchestral tempi. She is in good control, and this is a lively orchestra (I like it, if only they'd lower the volume a little).

    Leo Nucci makes his entrance and his baritone voice is a bit fatigued with a vibrato that is getting to be too large and loose. Miroslav Dvorski is a good Manrico, with a tenor voice with beautiful timbre, in spite of lacking potency.

    Acting is not impressive by any of these protagonists. The trio Di geloso amor sprezzato again has the orchestra playing too loud and only Dimitra is able to soar above it.

    *Very* good rendition of the Anvil Chorus Vedi le fosche notturne follows. Like I said, this is a good chorus, and and the fully resonant orchestra impacts on this gorgeous piece the right incisiveness. Movement on stage is well done. This chorus piece due to its overexposure is not that easy to get right, and here, they more than do.

    Unfortunately we can't say the same about Mariana Pentcheva's rendition of Stride la vampa, which is pretty much a disaster, especially in the first half of the aria, when there are glaring pitch errors (she gets a bit better for the second half).

    Condotta ell'era in ceppi is equally poorly sung. Ms. Pentcheva is sinking this production (well, when Caruso said that a successful Trovatore requires the four best singers in the world, we definitely don't have this, here - and shouldn't expect it, in this regional opera house production).

    Leo Nucci does a good job with Il balen del suo sorriso in spite of the fatigued voice; he still partially has what it takes. His Per me ora fatale on the other hand is less good, probably suffering from the strain he had to take on while singing the previous aria - and here, in this fundamental aria, his voice loses volume and he is again overwhelmed by the orchestra and the chorus - a pity.

    Dimitra ends the second act with aplomb. She is really doing very well in this production. The final trio in act II is a success for all three singers. Dimitra lowers her voice a bit and the orchestra finally realizes that they also need to play down the volume, so that we can hear the tenor and the baritone. A good scene.

    Chorus-heavy third act is a good fit for this production which does have a good chorus. Even Ms. Pentcheva is doing a little better.

    Mr. Dvorski does well with Ah si, ben mio coll'essere. Nothing to write home about, but pretty good, with adequate passion and musicality. I hope he's saving something for Di quella pira which is coming.

    OK, not bad, especially the first part, before he gets drowned by the orchestra and the chorus. But not too good either. A so-so pira, these flammes are not scorching hot...

    Ms. Theodossiou again steals the show with her D'amor sull'ali rosee. Very expressive, very passionate, with good breath control, good mastery of the musical line, good acting, and well executed coloraturas. She gets the biggest ovation so far and lots of "bravas." She is clearly several notches above everybody else in this production. We're about to get to my favorite part of Il Trovatore, the one I always wait for with goosebumps: the chorus and duet Miserere. I hope it is good.

    Wow. They nailed it. This one that is one of the most beautiful scenes in all of opera was masterfully done, with a superb Theodossiou, the orchestra and chorus were very good, and even the sparse staging got a little better with a candlelit procession. Mr. Dvorski's voice in off with the orchestra playing softly was very good. This is a very good Miserere, which will turn my verdict into a 'recommended' one.

    The duet Ai nostri monti ritorneremo between Manrico and Azucena is not bad. The whole prison cell scene is effective, and gets even better when Dimitra walks in. The quartet Prima che d'altri vivere is beautiful and well interpreted.

    The final scene is a bit anticlimactic since it depends on Azucena who isn't well sung in this production.

    Verdict - while this production is uneven, I've seen worse (Annie and Natalie know what I'm talking about, hehehe). Certainly for a regional opera company it is rather decent. There are some very good moments, thanks to a good soprano in the female leading role. We also get an energetic orchestra and a good chorus. Staging is primitive, lighting is dark, the image is not great, and the sound balance favors the orchestra too much. Worse of it all, casting for roles other than Leonora's are not as successful. It's a 3 stars out of 5, and an optional buy, but not terrible. It can be recommended to the Trovatore fanatic thanks to its very successful renditions of the Anvil Chorus and of Miserere, but the casual fan may want to look elsewhere for a better DVD version.

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    I haven't seen the next two recently so I'll just add a blurb from memory rather than a detailed review.

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    I don't like this production at all. As a matter of fact I threw my copy in the garbage can, literally. Other Opera Lively members like it very much. Later I'll include a review by one of the members who like it if they want to have their say. For me, acting is unconvincing and stock, with much overacting. The scenarios are not tasteful, especially the covent scene, and one wonders why the Anvil Chorus has no anvils and the bonfire scene has no fire. I did not like Jose Cura's Manrico and thought that he had many vocal failures. Villaroel doesn't do well at all. Hvorostovsky seems uneasy in this Verdi role. Naef does well, though. Some staging concepts border the silly, such as the soldiers dancing with aviator glasses. The lighting is dark. Stage dynamics are confusing, especially in the choral scenes. Conducting is slow.

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    This one is uneven but contains a very good vocal performance by Pavarotti. Eva Marton on the other hand is miscast - an otherwise good singer who is not in her territory as Leonora, is past her prime, and brings down this production. Milnes' Count is good, and Zajick's Azucena is excellent both in singing and acting. Pavarotti has trouble with all the stairs in the scenarios and seems a bit disconnected in his stand-and-deliver stance, but sings beautifully. There are cuts and transpositions that won't please the purists. Again, very dark lighting.


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