Lyric Opera of Chicago’s current production of Verdi’s Il trovatore offers an extremely talented international cast of new and returning artists to play the vividly drawn characters in this hot-blooded tale of love, jealousy, and mistaken identity, and terrible retribution.
Conductor Marco Armiliato and the Lyric Opera Orchestra bring collective experiences to the thrilling blood-and-thunder score. The original director, Sir David McVicar, has created a visually powerful production set in tumultuous early 19th-century Spain. Roy Rallo (Lyric debut) directs the revival, with set designs by Charles Edwards, costume designs by Brigitte Reiffenstuel, original lighting design by Jennifer Tipton, and revival lighting design by Chris Maravich.
American tenor Russell Thomas is Manrico, the titular troubadour, while American soprano Tamara Wilson (Lyric debut) plays his love, Leonora. American mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton portrays the tortured gypsy Azucena, and Polish baritone Artur Ruciński (Lyric debut) sings the dastardly Count di Luna, who covets Leonora’s affections. Serving as narrator for this twisted tale is Ferrando, sung by Italian bass Roberto Tagliavini (Lyric debut)
Notable main cast performances include Wilson as Leonora, who was emotionally stunning as the noble woman in love with Manrico and courted by Di Luna (especially during her “Miserere” aria), Mr. Thomas as Henrico, the troubadour, who utilized his powerful voice to show his love for Lepnora, Rucinskias the vengeful Count di Luna, and Tagliavini as Luna’s officer. All displayed powerful voices and moving, dramatic performances of Verdi’s unforgettable music.
Not only did the principles impress, but I was deeply moved by the memorable opera chorus. My friend and I agreed it was one of the largest ensembles we had ever seen at the Lyric, but also the fact that they were in precise unison. One of the best examples of course, was the famous, stirring music of “Anvil Chorus.”
Besides the talented cast, the stage and set design were remarkable, consisting of a turning structure that changed with each scene, into something completely different, such as a castle, a battle field, a town square, a prison, and a convent. The costumes and props were also noteworthy, with great attention to historical detail of 15th century Spain. With the dramatic lightning and backdrops, everything looked so realistic, I almost forgot I was in the Lyric Opera.
Il trovatore is not to be missed. It is a story that is jampacked with drama, action, comedy, family, loyalty, revenge, and dark mystery. Now throw in unforgettable characters, and sumptuous singing, and you will experience a great evening of opera!
Photos: Todd Rosenberg unless otherwise posted
Il trovatore runs for seven performances November 17 – December 9 at the Lyric Opera House, 20 N. Wacker Dr., Chicago.
Tickets start at $39 and are available now at the Lyric website or at 312-827-5600.