The Utah Opera opened their new season on Saturday with a production of Il Trovatore to a crowded Capitol Theater. Il Trovatore (“The Troubadour”) is no easy feat to pull off, thanks to the difficulty of the music. So difficult, it has been said that in order to make it a success, it requires the four best singers in the world. Utah Opera may not have had the world’s best, but the production was definitely a success.
|Mark Schnaible and the men’s chorus during last week’s rehearsal.|
Written at the peak of Verdi’s career, Il Trovatore is known as one of the composer’s masterpieces. The music is enjoyably beautiful, with a catchy chorus and passionate arias. The story, on the other hand, is more difficult to understand. Like many operas, the story starts with a love triangle. Lady-in-waiting to the princess, Leonora, and the troubadour, Manrico, are in love. But Leonora is also adored by Count di Luna, who is jealous of her relationship with the troubadour. As a baby, the Count’s brother was bewitched by a gyspy and, as punishment, the gypsy was burned alive for practicing witchcraft. The gypsy commanded her daughter, Azucena, to avenge her, so Azucena stole the Count’s brother. The Count has been on a search for Azucena ever since–who just happens to be Manrico’s mother. See why I said it’s confusing? (The full synopsis is here.)
After seeing Utah Opera’s production of Rigoletto last January, I wrote that Utah Opera should stick to doing comedies, which require less hard-hitting singers in order to be successful. After seeing Il Trovatore on Saturday, I will rightfully redact that statement. This is by far the best opera I have seen in Utah. The stage design, borrowed from the Minnesota Opera Company, was artful and intriguing. While the set never changed, the lighting and energetic cast provided enough entertainment so that it was barely noticeable.
|Michael Chioldi, Jennifer Check and Scott Piper during last week’s dress rehearsal.|
And the singers were in a totally different league than last year. Baritone Michael Chioldi’s performance of Count di Luna was simply captivating. Soprano Jennifer Check, who played Leonora, did an excellent job, although not as strong as I hoped. Luckily she had tenor Scott Piper (Manrico) to help her through most of her scenes, who did an absolutely amazing job. Several of his arias gave me chills. And the fourth star of the show, Elizabeth Bishop, also gave an outstanding performance as the gypsy Azucena. My favorite scenes were the mother/son duets between Bishop and Piper, whose voices complemented each other beautifully.
Il Trovatore has wonderful music and an entertaining story of love, jealousy, revenge and death. What’s not to like? Productions of Il Trovatore continue throughout the week on Wednesday, Friday and a Sunday matinee. Click here for tickets. (And remember that students get a discount, including those in college!)
If Il Trovatore is any indication of what the rest of Utah Opera’s season is going to be like, it’s going to be one not to miss. See the rest of the season here.