• Il Trovatore - Opera Colorado

    All pictures courtesy of Opera Colorado

    Il Trovatore is often presented in a semi-staged production and it's easy to see why – the demands of the opera include numerous settings, a very active chorus, and singers who must have a compelling stage presence to convey the belivability of one of opera's less likely librettos. Opera Colorado forgoes the notion of doing it halfway and valienty presents a Trovatore that hits far more often than it misses.

    Although there is a single set for the four acts, lighting is used effectively to alter the dimensions and feel, with a gypsy camp and a prison believably conveyed. As the opera opens, the Ferrando (Wayne Tigges) narrates a bit of necessary backstory in his aria Di due figli vivea beato. Mr. Tigges sounds much more comfortable in the higher end of the aria's tessitura where his voice is full and lovely but roughens a bit towards the lower reaches. Pacing around, he sings with appreciable intensity as he relates the story of a gypsy put to death for the bewitching of the Count di Luna's younger brother.

    Speaking of which, the Conte di Luna (Robert Hyman) is a baritone with a round and deep sound. Mr. Hyman sounds (and in his makeup looks) a bit like French baritone Laurent Naouri. Mr. Hyman particularly shines in the Act 1 duel, with some gorgeously floated lines. Fully invested in his lines, he delivers them with gusto and makes it look easy.

    Scene 2 of Act 1 opens with the first appearance of Leonora (Michele Capalbo), and what an appearance it is. Ms. Capalbo is a true Verdi soprano with a large, rich, lush voice that reminds one a bit of Sondra Radvanovsky's timbre. Completely comfortable with some of Verdi's more challenging passages, her voice completely won over the crowd from the start as she relates her love for Manrico (Avgust Amonov) to Ines (Amy Maples). Ms. Maples' voice is a bit of a curiousity; certainly clean, pure, and beautiful, it is perhaps the smallest voice I've heard on an opera stage. The program notes that she is a member of the Opera Colorado Young Artist program and one hopes that further development will allow her voice to open up and become more sizeable.

    The first two acts of Il Trovatore pose a challenge for Manrico; as the “bad boy” protagonist of the opera he is a centerpiece of the story and given the limited on-stage time for him until the post-intermission acts, what time he does have on stage needs to be memorable and intense. Mr. Amonov can certainly sing the role with his lyric tenor that is ever so slightly shaded a bit dark, but does not have the magnetism one might wish for. In duets he seems to be waiting for his turn to sing instead of listening to the other character and responding to them. That said, his singing is lovely and piquant, particularly in his Act 3 aria Ah si, ben mio coll'essere for which he received a long and well-earned ovation.

    Nancy Maultsby is completely convincing as the gypsy Azucena, with a lovely legato line and squillo that cuts through the orchestra. Her singing is intense and passionate as she conveys the journey her character takes – from longing for a vengeance that may never come, to hopelessness as she is imprisoned, to her final exultation. A sizeable voice, Ms. Maultsby knows how to use it subtly when required and she would have been the star of the show were it not for Ms. Capalbo.

    The chorus does a serviceable job, showing real enthusiasm in the anvil chorus. The women in particular have a complete, well-blended sound.

    The stage design, as noted above, is well served by the lighting, though there are some curiosities. A projected moon goes from full in Act 1, to a waning moon in Act 2, a crescent in Act 3, and back to a full moon (which transitioned between in-focus to extremely blurry). If there is a significance to this, I confess I do not grasp it.

    The highlight of the evening from a costume design standpoint is Leonora's black-on-grey dress she dons in Act 3, my companion and I both agreed. It's a knockout of a dress and I doubt any woman in the audience left without wishing she had it sitting in her closet at home.

    The score is conducted with a lively, controlled enthusiasm by Alexander Polianichko, with the disparate elements of the orchestra fitted together seamlessly but always energetically.

    Perhaps the only real weakness is in the acting, which is par for the course for opera; that is, you're there for the music and the singing. Il Trovatore's story is rather less than believable which makes the requirement for the singers to really sell their roles on-stage that much more important, and while the singing was never less than lovely, I was not sold on the love triangle or the chemistry between Leonora and Manrico.

    Nevertheless, one simply must see this performance to witness Ms. Capalbo's enthralling pianissimos, which crescendo like a wave breaking. Her voice just gets better as the evening goes on and her duets in Act 4 (Mira, d'acerbe lagrime and Ai nostri monti ritoneremo) are captivating.

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