Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.







Recently in Performances

Daniel Kramer's new La traviata at English National Opera

Verdi's La traviata is one of those opera which every opera company needs to have in its repertoire, and productions need to balance intelligent exploration of the issues raised by the work with the need to reach as wide an audience as possible with an opera which is likely to attract audience members who are not regular opera-goers.

Haydn's Applausus: The Mozartists at Cadogan Hall

Continuing their MOZART 250 series, The Mozartists/ Classical Opera began dipping into the operatic offerings of 1768 at Wigmore Hall in January, when they presented numbers from Mozart’s La finta semplice, Jommelli’s Fetonte, Hasse’s Pirano e Tisbe and Haydn’s Lo speziale.

Schubert Schwanengesang revisited—Florian Boesch, Wigmore Hall

Schwanengesang isn't Schubert's Swan Song any more than it is a cycle like Die schöne Müllerin or Winterreise. The title was given it by his publishers Haslingers, after his death, combining settings of two very different poets, Ludwig Rellstab and Heinrich Heine. Wigmore Hall audiences have heard lots of good Schwanengesangs, including Boesch and Martineau performances in the past, but this was something special.

Rinaldo: The English Concert at the Barbican Hall

“After such cruel events, I don’t know if I am dreaming or awake.” So says Almirena, daughter of the Crusader Goffredo, when she is rescued by her beloved warrior-hero, Rinaldo, from the clutches of the evil sorceress, Armida.

Hamlet abridged and enriched in Amsterdam

French grand opera and small opera companies are an unlikely combination. Yet OPERA2DAY, a company of modest means, is currently touring the Netherlands with Hamlet by Ambroise Thomas.

The ROH's first production of From the House of the Dead

Krzysztof Warlikowski’s production for the ROH of From the House of the Dead is ‘new’ in several regards. It’s (astonishingly) the first time that Janáček’s last opera has been staged at Covent Garden; it’s Warlikowski’s debut at Covent Garden; and the production uses a new 2017 critical edition prepared by John Tyrrell.

Così fan tutte at Lyric Opera of Chicago

With artifice, disguise, and questions on fidelity as the basis of Mozart’s Così fan tutte, the composer’s mature opera has returned to the stage at Lyric Opera of Chicago.

WNO's Wheel of Destiny rolls into Birmingham

Welsh National Opera’s wheel of destiny has rolled into Birmingham this week, with Verdi’s sprawling tragedy, La forza del destino, opening the company’s ‘Rabble Rousing’ triptych at the Hippodrome.

A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Royal College of Music

The gossamer web of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is sufficiently insubstantial and ambiguous to embrace multiple interpretative readings: the play can be a charming comic caper, a jangling journey through human pettiness and cruelty, a moonlit fairy fantasy or a shadowy erotic nightmare, and much more besides.

Robert Carsen's A Midsummer Night's Dream returns to ENO

Having given us Christopher Alden's strangely dystopic production of Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream in 2011, English National Opera (ENO) has opted for Robert Carsen's bed-inspired vision for the latest revival of the opera at the London Coliseum.

Turandot in San Diego—Prima la voce

The big musical set pieces in Turandot require voice, voice, and more voice, and San Diego Opera has gifted us with a world-class cast of singing actors.

Dialogues de Carmélites at the Guildhall School: spiritual transcendence and transfiguration

Four years have passed since my last Dialogues des Carmélites, and on that occasion - Robert Carsen’s production for the ROH - heightened dramatic intensity, revolutionary insurrection (enhanced by an oppressed populace formed by a 67-strong Community Ensemble) and, under the baton of Simon Rattle, luxuriant musical rapture, were the order of the day.

'B & B’ in a new key

Seattle Opera’s new production of Béatrice et Bénédict is best regarded as a noble experiment, performed expressly to see if Berlioz’ delectable 1862 opéra comique can successfully be brought into the living repertory outside its native France. As such, it is quite a success.

Of Animals and Insects: a musical menagerie at Wigmore Hall

Wigmore Hall was transformed into a musical menagerie earlier this week, when bass-baritone Ashley Riches, a Radio 3 New Generation Artist, and pianist Joseph Middleton took us on a pan-European lunchtime stroll through a gallery of birds and beasts, blooms and bugs.

Hugo Wolf, Italienisches Liederbuch

Nationality is a complicated thing at the best of times. (At the worst of times: well, none of us needs reminding about that.) What, if anything, might it mean for Hugo Wolf’s Italian Songbook? Almost whatever you want it to mean, or not to mean.

San Jose’s Dutchman Treat

At my advanced age, I have now experienced ten different productions of Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman in my opera-going lifetime, but Opera San Jose’s just might be the finest.

Mortal Voices: the Academy of Ancient Music at Milton Court

The relationship between music and money is long-standing, complex and inextricable. In the Baroque era it was symbiotically advantageous.

I Puritani at Lyric Opera of Chicago

What better evocation of bel canto than an opera which uses the power of song to dispel madness and to reunite the heroine with her banished fiancé? Such is the final premise of Vincenzo Bellini’s I puritani, currently in performance at Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Iolanthe: English National Opera

The current government’s unfathomable handling of the Brexit negotiations might tempt one to conclude that the entire Conservative Party are living in the land of the fairies. In Gilbert & Sullivan’s 1882 operetta Iolanthe, the arcane and Arcadia really do conflate, and Cal McCrystal’s new production for English National Opera relishes this topsy-turvy world where peris consort with peri-wigs.

Il barbiere di Siviglia in Marseille

Any Laurent Pelly production is news, any role undertaken by soprano Stephanie d’Oustrac is news. Here’s the news from Marseille.



Karen Slack
11 Mar 2013

Il Trovatore at Arizona Opera

Giuseppe Verdi and his librettist, Salvatore Cammarano, based the opera on Antonio García Gutiérrez’s Spanish play El Trovador.

Il Trovatore at Arizona Opera

A review by Maria Nockin

Above: Karen Slack

Production photos by Jeff Reeder courtesy of Arizona Opera


It’s important to realize that the play sets the time of the action in the fifteenth century, the time of Ferdinand and Isabella, and of Columbus. Beliefs, customs, and relationships were very different then. People believed that a witch could make you sick by giving you the evil eye. It was an age when few lived beyond the age of forty. Women had almost no rights and more than thirty percent of children died before the age of four. Aspects of the plot that may seem outlandish now, were quite real in the fourteen hundreds.

Unfortunately, Cammarano died before completing his libretto. Verdi then took over revising it and asked Leone Emanuele Bardare to finish it. In doing so, he added a great deal to the leading soprano part. On 19 January 1853 the opera was premièred at the Apollo Theater in Rome. Rigoletto had been a tremendous success in 1851 and Il trovatore was Verdi’s next blockbuster. It swept through European musical capitals like wild fire. By 1855 it was being performed at the recently opened Academy of Music in New York and at Covent Garden in London. Two years later L’Opéra staged Verdi’s Paris version of the opera with a newly written ballet scene.

0288IMG_6291.gif Count (Malcolm MacKenzie) duelling with Manrico (Dongwon Shin)

On 2 March 2013 Arizona Opera presented a traditional production of Verdi’s Il trovatore directed by John Hoomes at Symphony Hall in Phoenix. Actually, since a brand new rear projection screen supplied much of the scenery, it only looked traditional. Technically, it was up to the minute even though the audience was looking at Projection Designer Douglas Provost’s glorious images of fifteenth century Spain.

The first character heard in the opera is the soldier, Ferrando, recounting important background information. When a play is made into an opera only one-third of the dialogue can be used so someone has to recount some of the story. Director Hoomes saw to it that we always knew what was happening. Verdi made that bit of history into a catchy aria and Peter Volpe sang it with vigorous bronze tones. Karen Slack, who sang Leonora, the much fought over heroine, has a voluptuous soprano voice with silvery top notes and a formidable chest register. She seemed to throw care to the winds as she successfully navigated her music’s many pitfalls. The result was an exciting performance of this difficult role. Dongwon Shin was an energetic troubadour with a warm tenor voice, naturally musical phrasing and more than enough squillo for ‘Di quella pira’. He excelled in a role that few tenors attempt, so it’s no wonder that he has sung it in many cities.

0343IMG_6346.gifAzucena (Mary Phillips) and Manrico (Dongwon Shin)

Mary Phillips had an amazing grasp of the role of Azucena. Verdi himself told us that she was not crazy, but her actions are that of a very troubled woman. These days we might blame it on traumatic stress resulting from having seen her mother’s fiery execution. Phillips made her real and totally believable, both when she showed her love for her presumed son and when she spat like a caged animal during her capture. Phillips colored her opulent mezzo-soprano voice with the myriad textures of this dramatic part. Some of the best singing in this delightful performance came from the villain, Count di Luna, portrayed by Malcolm MacKenzie. He phrased with great artistry and his sound was pure gold. He will be in Murder in the Cathedral at San Diego Opera later this month.

As Inez and Ruiz, Bevin Hill and David Margolis handled their parts with ease and added considerably to this excellent performance. Henri Venanzi’s chorus sang with ardor and commitment. Their ‘Anvil Chorus’ rang with stunning harmonies punctuated by the blows on a two toned anvil. Joel Revzen was the conductor who held everything together for this excellent performance. With a brisk, light approach, he gave a propulsive account of the score that pushed forward with relentless power.

Maria Nockin

Cast and production information:

Manrico, Dongwon Shin; Leonora, Karen Slack; Count di Luna, Malcolm Mackenzie; Azucena, Mary Phillips; Ferrando, Peter Volpe; Ruiz, David Margulis; Inez, Bevan Hill. Arizona Opera Chorus and Orchestra; Conductor, Joel Revzen; Chorus Master, Henri Venanzi. Scenic Design, Lighting Design, and Projections, Douglas Provost. Costumes, AT Jones and Sons. Fight Director, Andrea Robertson.

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):