Lyric Opera’s “Il Trovatore” Review – A Grand Production

I had the opportunity of seeing the Lyric Opera of Chicago’s production of Giuseppe Verdi’s Il Trovatore, thereby enjoying some of the most beautiful music in all of opera and the dramatic story it tells. This revival of the acclaimed production from renowned director Sir David McVicar, conducted by Asher Fisch is being shown Nov. 12, 15, 18, 21, and 29 at 7:30pm – don’t miss it.   

 

The pre-opera lecture offered by Jesse Gram was informative and fascinating, and enhanced the enjoyment of the performance, itself.  Here is the basic story but to hear the accompanying music that, according to Jesse Gram tells more that the words, you will have to attend a Lyric pre-opera talk in person.

 

Il Trovatore centers on the gypsy Azucena (mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe), who has raised Manrico (tenor Yonghoon Lee) as her son. She harbors a dark secret, however, as to his true birth. Both a troubadour and a warrior, Manrico is in love with the noblewoman Leonora (soprano Amber Wagner), who is also loved by Manrico’s enemy, Count di Luna (baritone Quinn Kelsey). The Count has spent his life searching for his brother, who died under mysterious circumstances involving a gypsy. Urged on by his henchman Ferrando (bass Andrea Silvestrelli), the Count takes Azucena prisoner, leading to tragic consequences for all concerned. Quinn Kelsey and Amber Wagner are alumni of The Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center, Lyric’s premier artist-development program.  Many alumni of the Ryan program are returning and performing, helping to celebrate Lyric’s 6oth anniversary.

 

Gram also suggests that the story pits hatred against love. The music that tells the story is some of the most famous and familiar music Verdi ever composed and some of the most beautiful in all of opera.

 

As the opera begins, we see the show curtain, noteworthy as it was inspired by Goya paintings. The set is the same one used for the Il Trovatore 2006-7 Lyric production and moves in a circular fashion. The sets, designed by Charles Edwards are powerful and the perfect backdrop for the story. The costumes, by Brigitte Reiffenstuel, lent credibility to the story.

 

And so the opera begins with the perfectly presented aria, Abbietta zingara, sung by the renown Italian bass Andrea Silvestrelli, in which the story of the gypsy is told to the troops to keep them awake and ready for battle. Asher Fisch, skillfully conducted the orchestra for this performance. The revival director and choreographer Leah Hausman’s work enhanced the singing, as did the chorus under the direction of chorus master Michael Black and the lighting by Jennifer Tipton.

 

Some of the standouts in this performance were the performance of the Anvil Chorus.  This aria was compelling and powerful and an absolute highlight.The very end of the second act was a bit of a surprise, another dramatic moment. In the third act, Stephanie Blythe as Azucena, the gypsy, curses the count (a very evil man) in Deh! Rallentate, o barbari .  She is nothing less, than amazing.  And a moment I will long remember is tenor Yonghoon Lee as Manrico, singing of love to Leonora as they are about to be married, Cabeletta: Di quella pira.

 

The audience loved this production, showing their appreciation with an enthusiastic standing ovation. This is an opera one can’t see too many times, it is so filled with drama and beauty. 

 

I enjoyed comparing notes with my seatmates, Sunnie and Carl who live far from one another but meet at the train station in order to attend Lyric Opera of Chicago performances, which they have been doing for more than twenty years.  How lucky Chicagoans have been for the sixty years that Lyric has graced the city.

 

Lyric Opera production generously made possible by an Anonymous Donor, Julie and Roger Baskes, the Howard Family Foundation, and the Mazza Foundation.

Coproduction of Lyric Opera of Chicago, the Metropolitan Opera, and San Francisco Opera Association

 

See more at: Lyric’s website

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