Opera Holland Park – Il Trovatore

Il trovatore – opera in four acts to a libretto by Salvatore Cammarano based on a play by Antonio Garcia Gutiérrez [sung in Italian with English surtitles]

Leonora – Katarina Jovanovic
Manrico – Rafael Rojas
Azucena – Anne Mason
Conte di Luna – Stephen Gadd
Ferrando – Geoffrey Moses
Ines – Stephanie Corley
Ruiz – Michael Bracegirdle
An Old Gypsy – Bruno Loxton
A Messenger – Niel Joubert

Opera Holland Park Chorus

City of London Sinfonia
Brad Cohen

John Lloyd Davies – Director & Designer
James Clutton – Producer
Colin Grenfell – Lighting Designer
Mandy Demetriou – Choreographer
Elizabeth Rowe – Repetiteur
Tara Cole – Costume Supervisor
Ron Freeman – Wigs & Make-up
Paul Hastie & Richard Dearsley – Surtitles Translation & Operation

Reviewed by: Michael Darvell

Reviewed: 3 June, 2008
Venue: Opera Holland Park, London

The opening night of this year’s Opera Holland Park season repeated the weather of the first night last year: a total downpour all evening. However, all was not lost, in fact nothing was lost at all as the new canopy, with some modifications, stood up to the inclemency with nary a drop of rain entering the auditorium. That said, it was still rather chilly and by the end of the evening the percussionists, seated on the outer edge in a huge draught, had donned overcoats and mufflers. Pity the poor violinists who had to perform elaborate fingering without mittens. Still, the weather has never fazed the Opera Holland Park audience and a good time was had by all.

The opening production by John Lloyd Davies of Verdi’s “Il trovatore” was a good start to what promises to be an outstanding season. “Il trovatore” is not the easiest of plots to ‘out’ to an audience: the Spanish Civil War provides the background to a story involving brothers separated in childhood, a gypsy woman (Azucena) is accused of witchcraft after her mother is burnt at the stake by the father of Royalist leader (Conte di Luna), upon whom she places a curse by hurling his other child into the fire. The younger Conte Di Luna seeks retribution. Meanwhile, both the Conte Di Luna and a wandering minstrel, the troubadour Manrico, a rebel in the Civil War, love Leonora. There follows a fight for power, love and vengeance which, in a single work, might seem rather overblown, but John Lloyd Davies’s production keeps it firmly within the realms of possibility with an emphasis on realism that makes the piece ring true.

Casting from strength helps and there are at least three excellent performances. As Manrico, Rafael Rojas is the hero incarnate. When the programme-note says “Manrico leaps into action” he really does just that, but then Verdi has written some brilliantly rousing music for the rebels and their leader. Rojas doesn’t do a Pavarotti in his big aria but he gets there without resorting to unnecessary flourishes and, with a bandanna around his forehead, he certainly looks the part of the troubadour rebel.

As Leonora Katarina Jovanovic sings beautifully with clear, excellent phrasing in a part that can be a little on the soppy side, a woman who has fallen for a strolling minstrel, who at that time (15th-century Spain) was probably the equivalent of a pop star. It’s a fine performance, well-acted and sung with requisite passion and sympathy. Anne Mason, however, rather eclipses them as Azucena, a star reading that has real backbone and drive – she is really feeling the wrath of the gypsy woman who, twenty years earlier, made a sacrifice that she only now can avenge. It’s a tough role but managed very capably indeed by Mason.

Good support comes from Stephen Gadd’s Conte di Luna, Geoffrey Moses’s Ferrando and a nicely sung cameo from Stephanie Corley as Ines. The City of London Sinfonia and the Opera Holland Park Chorus did wonders to bring the music alive, even in Arctic conditions! Brad Cohen evoked a beautifully stirring sound from his musicians. John Lloyd Davies also designed the impressive set – a backdrop in bold red with a tower of fire as a centrepiece. The stylisation of the prison scenes is handled very well, the staging being a masterly presentation of a difficult piece on the wide space that is the Holland Park Theatre.

  • Il trovatore is at Holland Park Theatre on 5, 7, 10, 12, 14, 18 & 20 June at 7.30 p.m.
  • Box Office: 0845 230 9769
  • Tickets £10.00 to £52.00 with some concessions
  • Opera Holland Park

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