The Metropolitan Opera hasn’t had much luck with Il Trovatore, said Mike Silverman in the Associated Press. Previous stagings, in 1987 and 2000, were so legendarily disastrous that Met manger Peter Gelb has referred to Trovatore’s “double curse” on his house. It seems “the third time is the charm.” Though the melodies are among Verdi’s finest, the famously convoluted and melodramatic libretto has always been a tough swallow: The tale concerns two 15th-century Spanish brothers, separated at birth by a gypsy curse, who meet again as rivals vying for the love of the same woman. Fortunately, Scottish director David McVicar has devised a production for the Met “that finally does justice to this dark masterpiece.”
This “might not be the most imaginative or visually striking Trovatore,” said Anthony Tommasini in The New York Times, but “the curse is broken.” McVicar moves the story’s action to 19th-century Spain, and costumes and sets inspired by Goya’s masterful Disasters of War etchings give the production “a consistent and harrowing look.” There are no real dances in the opera, but choreographer Leah Hausman has structured a sequence of men swinging hammers onto anvils during the “Anvil Chorus” that is both dance-like and enthralling. Only conductor Gianandrea Noseda’s work is inconsistent.
“The opera calls for singers able to throw themselves wholeheartedly into a far-from-believable story line,” said Eric Myers in Variety. In that respect, McVicar’s fine cast certainly delivers. Tenor Marcelo Álvarez lacks a “truly distinctive timbre” as Manrico, the troubadour of the title and brother/rival to Count di Luna. Yet he knows well enough how to make the most of his voice. As di Luna, Dmitri Hvorostovsky captures his character’s “swings between hellbent vengeance and romantic obsession” with a resonant baritone. “Most remarkable is soprano Sondra Radvanovsky.” As Leonora, the feisty object of the brothers’ affection shows an “exceptional command” of vocal dynamics. For the first time in decades, “the Met has a Trovatore” to be proud of.