Il Trovatore at the Mariinsky 2 Review

After a one month break, the Mariinsky has finally kicked off its 232nd season. Swan Lake started at 7pm last Friday but guess what—Trovatore was just around the corner at the Mariinsky 2 at 7.30! The season opener Trovatore was a much expected event mainly due to well-known Russian conductor Valery Gergiev on the pit. The Mariinsky 2 is a wonderful modern theatre with amazing acoustics and studio-like reverberation—in fact, the best PZ has ever experienced in an opera house—and Gergiev's brilliant conducting put this Trovatore together with remarkable care for the singers. The production is not luxurious even though it received an ovation when the curtain went up for the last scene of act 2. However, an almost empty and dark stage fuels dramatic intensity during most scenes of the opera. In the 2nd scene of act 3, there are only some steps and the lovers’ bed with a red dossal—maybe another sign of Leonora and Manrico’s ill-fated love. When Ruiz interrupts the love duet to warn Manrico that Azucena has been captured by the count, Gergiev’s orchestra bursts into the show-stopper aria “Di quella pira”, and a pyre is actually projected at the back of the stage.

This effect was also used in the previous scene in Di Luna’s camp, which may have made it look a little dull during the aria. Even though Gergiev was doing his best to support tenor Hovhannes Ayvazyan’s Manrico, the latter’s rendition was not very stimulating and that became too apparent during “Ah sì, ben mio.” Where was the will of avenging his grandmother in the en-poignant duet with Azucena; where was his fierceness as he rushed either to save his mother or die trying? Nevertheless, Ayvazyan managed to pull out the high Cs and had a decent performance in the last act.  One of the reasons why this downside became evident was because Di Luna, Manrico’s rival, was played by Alexei Markov, a strong Russian-school baritone. Markov’s voice is powerful and his posture is commanding, even though his upper register can get shaky sometimes. This is not an evil Di Luna—just a man who is in love and cannot help despising the troubadour.  In act 4, in the dungeons, he observes the lovers for a while before he intervenes and sends Manrico off for execution. He just couldn’t help it.

Ekaterina Semenchuk’s Azucena was also very good, even though without a voice as strong as Markov’s. Semenchuk delivered a good “Stride la vampa!” with an amazing visual impact. Besides its amazing acoustics, the Mariinsky 2 also boasts some state of the art stage technology, which allows the stage’s floor to go up several meters. This technology was used to produce a setting for the gypsy camp, thus placing the anvil chorus in a basement-looking setting. Azucena told her story from the side of a fire, going back and forth alternating between light and shadow, building up an additional effect of suspense. Except for the fact that this “basement” features industrial revolution style structures and the costumes were traditional middle-ages, the only bothering thing about this production is that the anvil chorus uses no anvils. There are synchronized anvils onstage but the music doesn’t use anvils, which is kind of frustrating in P.Z.’s opinion.

A way of putting things straight about this Trovatore is saying that the first best thing was Gergiev’s magical conducting; the second best was Tatiana Serjan’s Leonora. This was a deeply emotional Leonora, fully introspective in “D’amor sull’ali rosee”, to which she added some cadenze at the end. Serjan’s work also deserves credit for respecting her colleague Hovhannes Ayvazyan (Manrico); acknowledging she had different vocal capabilities, she was clearly worried about not drowning the tenor, thus smoothing the evening’s performances.  She may have got out of pitch a couple of times, but no one really cares too much when the rest of the singing is so beautiful and intelligent. Her last scene in the dungeons was moving and also benefited from some interesting insights by the staging. When Azucena wakes up, she asks the count where Manrico is; he replies he is now dead. But in this production, he was actually still climbing the stairs for the execution chamber. De Luna doesn’t rush upstairs, which may suggest—again—that he just couldn’t forgive him. This was the real gypsy’s revenge: brother killing brother and knowing he was doing it.


Maestro Gergiev's curtain call.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the review. It was a good start for PZ in Saint Petersburg. I hope you will continue to enjoy and share your experiences in that fantastic city.