Il Trovatore - Sydney Opera House (NSW)
Created by Giuseppe Verdi, Directed by Davide Livermore
Reviewed by Juliana Payne
Murder, deceit, suicide, lust, superstition and a fair whack of good old-fashioned misogyny – just another day at the office for Opera Australia. The conductor Andrea Battistoni was suitably and satisfyingly dark haired, gorgeous and intense, doing that whole-of-body type of conducting that we all love to watch. Having not been to the Concert Hall with its revamped acoustics yet,last night’s orchestra at the Joan Sutherland Theatre sounded pretty damn impressive.
For those unfamiliar with the plot, the gist of it is that the Count (Maxim Aniskin) loves Leonora (Leah Crocetto) who loves Manrico (Yonghoon Lee) whose mother is Azucena (Elena Gabouri), a Romani woman with a dark secret, whom the Count wants to kill in revenge for the death of his brother years ago. Of course. We have the perfect quadrangle to frame the story of soaring passions, hatred, jealousies and love that gets belted out for two hours by four marvellous opera singers. Let’s not forget the supporting roles, and the chorus and dancers, who with precision, skill and supreme professionalism give us a wonderful rendition of one of the most performed operas.
Suffice to say that the operatic performances were completely incredible and compelling. An element that was completely engrossing and utterly wonderful was the digital panels that projected the changing backdrops. Six huge Space Odyssey-style black monolith panels lined each side of the stage, with a huge stage-wide panel upstage as a hi-tech cyclorama. On these panels appeared the stunning images that informed and illuminated what was happening on stage. The panels could also glide silently to form different stage vistas, such as a prison, a hospital, a war-torn wasteland. Under set designer, Gio Forma’s direction and concept, appropriately funky techie ‘D-Wok’ created this brave new world of digital set design. These structural and visual feasts brought the production alive in a way that poor old clunky flats and physical sets could never have done.
The master motif the ‘carnivale’ – a well-worn metaphor for the human condition but nonetheless highly relevant and evocative. The design embraced images from Romani fortune telling as well as Tarot card imagery, which were integrated seamlessly with the decayed carnivale backdrop of broken ferris wheels and crumbling circus infrastructure. The images washed down the panels at a frightening tempus fugit pace, the very transitory nature of digital content providing a reminder of our human mortality underlined by the montages of derelict buildings and broken window panes.
The images used were as if Terry Gilliam and Frida Khalo had created a series of intricate Mexican day of the dead nichos in steampunk style. With reds, blacks, golds and turquoise the panels were adorned and back-lit for maximum effect. Cleverly they never detracted from the action.
Verdi was no stranger to innovation – he had stipulated to his librettist in 1850 that he wanted to move away from the conventional opera structure of chorus scenes, duets and trios. The librettist ignored him and stuck to the conventions, so Verdi instead innovated his music. You just can’t hold back change, especially when it leads to such marvellous results even 172 years later.
Il Trovatore plays from 15th July 2022 in the Joan Sutherland Theatre at the Sydney Opera House, until 30 July. Tickets can be booked below. Images: Keith Saunders
Joan Sutherland Theatre, Sydney Opera House, Bennelong Point, Sydney
Sung in Italian with English surtitles.
Approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes, including one interval.
This production contains adult themes, violence and live flame effects, and a bright lighting effect during Act I.
CONDUCTOR Andrea Battistoni
DIRECTOR Davide Livermore
ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR Carlo Sciaccaluga
SET DESIGNER Giò Forma
COSTUME DESIGNER Gianluca Falaschi
LIGHTING DESIGNER John Rayment
DIGITAL CONTENT D-Wok
ILLUSTRATIONS Francesco Calcagnini
MANRICO Yonghoon Lee
LEONORA Leah Crocetto
AZUCENA Elena Gabouri
COUNT DI LUNA Maxim Aniskin
FERRANDO David Parkin
INEZ Sian Sharp
RUIZ Iain Henderson
OLD ROMANI Luke Gabbedy
MESSENGER Thomas Strong
Opera Australia Chorus
Opera Australia Orchestra