The Met in HD series got off to an exciting start this year with Il Trovatore, an opera I adore but have never seen a satisfactory performance of, until this one. The production by Sir David McVicar is in his now traditional style, with a reasonable number of very solid-looking props designed by Charles Edwards, and more or less time-honoured operatic acting, but done with intensity and conviction, so that this hardened team of Verdi experts were able to give their all, and obliged by doing so. The result, to my surprise, was that I not only enjoyed this uniquely energising work, but for the first time was moved by it. This despite the Met audience’s evident desire to turn it into a costume concert by protracted applause after almost every solo.
Of the impressive soloists one has to single out Anna Netrebko. It’s a pity that in appearance she has slightly let herself go, but the voice was in stunning shape, with superbly sustained legato lines in her cavatinas and man-eating accounts of her cabalettas. And she is a great ensemble artist too, her development over the last decade and more a remarkable ascent to greatness. Her Manrico is Yonghoon Lee, a fresh artist to me, but winning, passionate and convincingly youthful.
Dmitri Hvorostovsky made a speedy comeback after an operation for a brain tumour earlier this summer, and was greeted with enormous affection. He remains a reliably stiff and somewhat self-regarding artist, but that is arguably suitable for Di Luna. Holding it all together was the veteran of veterans Dolora Zajick, celebrating a quarter-century as Azucena, and bringing a roundedness to that role that I hadn’t realised was possible. The long closing scene, with her reiterated ‘Ai nostri monti’ had a pathos which I hardly expected to find in this opera any longer. Marco Armiliato was the conductor, drawing no attention to himself but making sure that the performance never lapsed into routine.