Overhead as we were leaving "Well, it got better . . ."
That about sums it up.
Seattle Opera's Il Trovatore was pretty disappointing for this opera fan. I've heard it (you all have heard the best bits) but never actually seen it live and was quite excited at the prospect. But, the sentiment quoted above sums it up for me. I'll give this opera another chance. Just not this production.
Don't get me wrong, the singing was simply beautiful and I could believe the pain in the words. The production design was appropriately drab as befits the story (the corpses swinging from the rafters . . ?). I even enjoyed our very own version of Statler and Waldorf sitting behind us as they made all kinds of inappropriate noises and comments (they left during the intermission as did a goodly number of the people sitting in our section)—though the fact that I was actually enjoying something annoying is not a good sign.
Two problems throughout the evening really made me not want to see this again.
First, the conductor stopped the music after every aria. As M observed, the audience was initially reluctant to clap. Late during the second half, the conductor abandoned this tactic and the audience, well trained to clap by this time, persisted through the music and the singing. It sucked the life out of the first two acts and threatened to do the same during the second two. Is this a opera tradition? If so, Please stop! Either that or just throw a concert Andre Rieu style.
Second, there were some choices made with the staging that really slowed things down, further destroying dramatic tension. The best example I can give takes place during ACT III. (The Gypsy's Son) when Manrico and Leonora are pledging their love before going to the wedding chapel. Just prior to this, Manrico's mother, Azucena, has been captured by the Count Di Luna and taken off to prison. In between these two scenes there was a pause while the stage hands placed and lit I don't know how many candles on the stage. It was beautiful, striking even, and (perhaps) did double duty as the candles in a wedding chapel and also the pyre to which Azucena is destined. But it took something like five minutes to get going, minutes in which the audience sat hushed in the darkened hall and then gradually started murmuring and muttering and even giggling. Was this visual effect worth the break in concentration? I think not. You have to know that some poor choices had been made when that happens. Every scene change was like this. A couple I can handle, but all of them? I really hope that all this is being rethought.
Now, I am a generally tolerant opera goer and can find something to enjoy in just about everything I've seen. Seattle Opera usually does a much better job than this.
- Seattle Times: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/entertainment/2010825923_opera19.html
- Seattle Weekly: http://www.seattleweekly.com/2010-01-20/arts/opera-review-il-trovatore/
- The Gathering Note: http://www.gatheringnote.org/?p=6400