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It looks like standard German silliness – clowns, loony-bins, etc – but actually Philipp Stölzl’s staging of Il trovatore at Berlin Staatsoper is far from worthless. Leonora and Azucena as lunatics is perfectly valid since Verdi paints all his characters as locked-in, monomaniacal, alone. Besides, we don’t want (do we?) childish cartoons of mediaeval Spain. So you have to grit your teeth for a bit, but it’s worth it. Plácido Domingo’s Luna basically proves the vast distance between a Verdi tenor and baritone, but Anna Netrebko’s intense Leonora, Marina Prudenskaya as a fabulous, freaked-out Azucena and a sturdy and stylish Manrico from Gaston Rivero generate really throat-gripping drama and eventually unbearable pathos. Any Trovatore staging simply needs to frame and enable the music, and this one does that. The final trio of Leonora, Azucena and Manrico is about the last word in despair. Daniel Barenboim drives the thing along with great consideration for the singers.

Robert Thicknesse Read the full review on Agora Classica

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