Verdi’s towering drama Il Trovatore gets a makeover in an excellent show at the Opera.
For a moment, let’s take the quality of the vocals and the level of the overall production as excellent and put that aside for later; let’s focus on the decor instead, as the magic performed here will increasingly be seen in other shows around the world, from opera to rock concerts.
The digital influence on live opera is not new. Many productions, including those of Opera Australia, have used clips and images as a backdrop to reflect the dynamics of the plot being staged.
What differentiates this imposing production from Verdi’s tangled story of jealousy, love and tragedy is the extent to which the digital process is now much smarter, more efficient and has a more dominating influence.
In doing so, scenographers and their digital partners are taking a risky path; too much distraction and the show loses its dramatic impact, too little and the hours of effort are wasted.
So what do we actually have here? A series of large vertical panels hang from the ceiling, each able to move independently or in unison, displaying single images or parts of a composite whole, with, for example, the flames of a burning building waving from screen to screen, then transforming into the damp walls of a prison cell, or an array of twinkling stars above.
It’s a big step up from the traditional approach of static painted backgrounds and
props, often illusion wheeled impedimenta, being shuffled from side to side of the stage.
The scenography is credited to Gio Forma, a studio whose designers, artists and architects create stagings for events like opera, but their techniques could be applied to almost any form of performance.
For the actual digital content, an innovative company called D-Wok wove the magic that created the virtual sets and backdrops.
We will see many more things like this in the years to come.
So much for the background, now foreground…
Leah Crocetto made her Opera Australia debut in 2021 in Aida and now we can once again enjoy the full range of this richly textured and so delicately controlled soprano in Davide Livermore’s production of Il Trovatore.
She played Leonora, the central character whose love for Manrico enrages her jealous suitor, Count di Luna, against the backdrop of the Spanish Civil War.
The American singer’s ability to move from nimble runs, leaps and trills – what we call coloratura – to sustained high notes was impressive.
Korean performer Yonghoon Lee, as a lover, produced a tenor impressive in strength and flexibility, fleetingly abandoned in Act I, though it rallied and ended with roars of approval.
French-Russian mezzo-soprano Elena Gabouri played Azucena, Manrico’s gypsy mother who is determined to destroy Leonora’s pursuer, Count de Luna.
Gabouri’s heartfelt rendition of Stride the Vampa (The Flames Roar) in Act II set the stage for the conflict to come.
Belarusian-born Maxim Aniskin as a count was a formidable foe, his beautifully nuanced baritone ringing with messages of frustration, hate and jealousy in equal measure.
His second, Ferrando, was played greedily by the Australian David Parkin, whose deep bass continues to delight opera lovers.
The opera’s most famous work, the Anvil Chorus, was performed with satisfying authority, as was that other Verdi favorite, the Miserere Chorus in Act IV.
Verona-born conductor Andrea Battistoni, only 35 years old and already an internationally recognized talent, has shown that his reputation is well deserved. I like a conductor who knows when to take his foot off the accelerator and when to press it, as he clearly does.
Finally, a word of praise for costume designer Gianluca Falaschi, whose imaginative touch enriched the look of the production, and lighting designer John Rayment, who rose to the challenges posed by changing demands. of the opera.
• OPERA: Il Trovatore
• STARS: Leah Crocetto, Elena Gabouri, Yonghoon Lee, Maxim Aniskin
• TO: Sydney opera
• UNTIL: July 30
• RESERVATIONS: 9250 7777, www.sydneyoperahouse.com