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.