Friday, March 1, 2013

Il Trovatore: The Crackling Flame Fizzles

Verdi's masterpiece about a Gypsy woman who mistakes her own child for the child of her enemy and throws her son into the flames. What in the world is she talking about? The opera starts out with Ferrando, Count di Luna's chief guard, telling his soldiers about how when the count was little he had a twin brother. And one day, the nanny woke up to find an old gypsy hovering over the baby. A big racket was put up and the gypsy was shooed away. In a few days, the baby became very sick. The gypsy was caught and condemned to be burnt on the stake. Her daughter, Azucena, was there and the old gypsy told her daughter to avenge her. Mi vendica! Azucena runs into the castle and steals the counts twin brother and comes back to the fire. She had her own child with her, and she mixed up the two children and burned her own instead of the enemy's! 

Il trovatoreTen years later. Azucena's "son" is all grown up and he falls in love with a lady by the name of Leonora. Manrico, Azucena's son, sings serenades to her and is nicknamed Il Trovatore. The Troubadour. And because in opera, everything is twisted and turned, Count di Luna is also in love with Leonora. (And please don't forget that Count di Luna and Manrico are biological brothers.) They get in a fight over Leonora and the scene ends. 

Azucena is now with her gypsies in the mountains and she tells them the same story about her mother burning. Manrico then comes and she tells him about how he isn't really her son. A messenger, Ruiz, then comes and tells Manrico that Leonora thinks that Manrico is dead and is going into the convent. Manrico leaves to stop her. 

In front of the convent, Count di Luna is with his soldiers. He is also there to stop Leonora from leaving into the convent. He decides to use force and kidnap her. He tells his soldiers to hide and to snatch her away on his cue. Leonora and nuns enter. (They sing for about five minutes.) Manrico enters and Leonora promises him that she'll marry him. Count di Luna and Manrico fight some more. The act ends here. 

Giuseppe Verdi
The next act starts out with Count di Luna and Ferrando talking about how Azucena was captured. They don't know that she is Manrico's mother. They talk to her and find out that she is the woman who burned the count's twin brother. They don't know that that isn't exactly true. Azucena calls out to her son Manrico, and they find out who her son is. She is sent to prison. Leonora and Manrico come out and talk about their marriage. Ruiz then enters and tells Manrico that Azucena is captured. Manrico swears to rescue her and runs off along with the army. 

Leonora then comes, (Manrico and Azucena are in prison), and sings about how she knows how to rescue Manrico. She sings three arias, which take up about ten minutes. Count di Luna enters and Leonora tells him that she will marry him if he frees Manrico. Count di Luna agrees and tells the guards to allow Manrico to pass. Leonora quickly swallows up poison from her ring. Opera never works without somebody drinking poison or stabbing themselves... Anyways, Leonora runs to Manrico and tells him to run. He figures out that she offered herself to the count and scolds her. Leonora begins dying and dies in Manrico's arms!!! Count di Luna enters and understands that Leonora tricked him and commands the guards to kill Manrico. Manrico yells to his mother, who was sleeping. She wakes up and watches her son get decapitated...or whatever they did to him. She then reveals to Count di Luna that Manrico was his biological brother. Azucena then calls out to her mother, saying: You are avenged, oh mother!!! Sei Vendicata, o madre!!! 

Now, I shall get to the point, The San Jose Opera had a production of Verdi's Il Trovatore. I went. I'm going to start criticizing everyone now. The cast included Evan Brummel as Count di Luna, James Callon as Manrico, Rebecca Krouner as Azucena, Melody King as Leonora, and Matthew Anchel as Ferrando. Let's start with Evan Brummel. He was a fine count. I loved his vibrato and the strength of his voice. The only thing I didn't really like was the stiffness of his acting. The same thing goes to James Callon who was also very loud. They were all very loud. Rebecca Krouner was a good mezzo-soprano, but not a Azucena - type. What I mean by that is her voice wasn't thick enough for Azucena. La Cenerentola or Rosina, maybe? She would be an awesome Rosina. Melody King was also rather stiff with her acting. I don't mean that they were bad actors, I mean that they didn't move around enough. But it's probably hard to jump around and sing at the same time... Matthew Anchel was a Mozartarian. His voice was more fit for Mozart. Maybe Rossini? 

Okay, I'm done. Got all of that off my chest! 

Written by: Rubina Mazurka 

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