On this first night of the Met’s revival of David McVicar’s 2009 production of Verdi’s Il trovatore, three of the four principals made auspicious role debuts. The biggest triumph was Anita Rachvelishvili’s brilliant portrayal of Azucena, the opera’s central character. Dolora Zajick has all but owned the role here for three decades (and will return for a single performance during the current run), but Rachvelishvili was not intimidated, bringing vocal beauty and power to her portrayal of the Gypsy whose actions set the plot in motion and whose keeping of a crucial secret ultimately dooms the central characters. Rachvelishvili’s ‘Stride la vampa’ was show-stopping, as was ‘Condotta ell’era in ceppi’, Azucena’s emotional account of her horror at having thrown her baby onto the pyre when her mother was burned at the stake.
Jennifer Rowley as Leonora and Quinn Kelsey as Count di Luna gave excellent performances that largely met the daunting challenge of succeeding such artists as Anna Netrebko, Sondra Radvanovsky and Dmitri Hvorostovsky. Rowley, taking over as Leonora from the ailing Maria Agresta, combined fine technique with an alluring persona. She won acclaim last season when, on short notice, she sung Roxane in Alfano’s Cyrano de Bergerac, and recently gave her first Tosca at the Met. Kelsey’s burnished baritone and strong stage presence made his Count credible both as a military commander and as a combatant for Leonora’s hand.
Yonghoon Lee has previously portrayed the troubadour Manrico. He was less successful than his fellow principals, with strident upper registers and often lacking subtlety, but he was an able partner in ensemble numbers. Most notable among the other returning veterans was Štefan Kocán as Ferrando, although his deep bass resonated less clearly than before. Marco Armiliato drew fine playing and kept the vocalists in sync, and the Met Chorus performed excellently, not least during the ‘Anvil’ chorus, but the choreography of the opening of Act Three was unpleasantly awkward.