A Dark 'Trovatore'
GIUSEPPE PENNISI reports on
Verdi from Cagliari
Verdi from Cagliari
Even though Il Trovatore is one of the three Verdi operas generally referred to as the 'popular trilogy', it seems now not to be as often performed as the other two — Rigoletto and La Traviata. In the latter part of the twentieth century, musicologists considered it a step backward from Rigoletto because of its unabashedly formalistic approach when compared with the freer form of the previous operas.
More recently, it has been generally accepted that Il Trovatore has a great deal of innovation: each of its eight scenes is a complex musical number by itself based on a specific theme although within each scene there are arias, duets and trios. Also, within each scene/number, homage is paid to Donizetti's melodrama and even to Bellini's belcanto. Furthermore, it is the first opera for which Verdi himself, rather than a theatre or an impresario, chose the drama.
Based on a popular novel by Antonio García Gutiérrez, it is hotchpotch of early romantic elements. Two brothers (who do not know they are siblings) are in love with the same woman; a gypsy by mistake killed her own son and raised one of the brothers as her own child; war between one of the brothers and the foes the other brother is working for, battles, poison and only in the final scene the revelation, but it is too late because the contended lady has poisoned herself, one of two brothers has been decapitated and the gypsy sent to the stake.
To make the plot believable nowadays, the time and place have often been moved from the original setting of Aragona and Biscay in the first part of the fifteenth century. Thus, we have recently seen Il Trovatore during the American War between the States, the Spanish 1936-39 civil war and alike (see A Bold Decision, 30 December 2014).
In this Cagliari production, Stefano Poda, author of the stage direction, sets, costumes and lighting, places the action in a totally abstract context; a cube and a few props handle the eight scenes. To heighten the dreadful contents of the plot, the stage is often dark with lighting at just a few moments. This is quite innovative for Il Trovatore. The Cagliari opening night audience (on 16 December 2016) was enthusiastic and applauded Stefano Poda and his collaborators.
In Il Trovatore the orchestra does not play a major role. The conductor, Giampaolo Bisanti, treated, in an intelligent manner, each scene as a 'musical number', even though the scene included arias, duets, trios and choral intervention. Il Trovatore is mostly voice.
The two rival brothers are quite well known: Roberto Frontali (a veteran of the Conte di Luna part) and Marcello Giordani (as Manrico, perfectly 'in tone' and with a lot of attention to the 'mezze voci'), Daniela Schillaci (Leonora) who was debuting in the role and overwhelmed the audience with her bel canto 'cavatina', Enkelejda Shkoza as an effective Azucena who could reach a very low register, and Luca Dell'Amico (as Ferrando, who sets the dark tone to the opera in the first scene singing his aria together with the chorus).