This past Thursday evening marked the 619th performance of Verdi’s Il Trovatore at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City. Verdi’s masterwork currently being staged this season was also performed during the Mets very first season some 126 years ago. It has had a long and illustrious tradition at the Met with such great singers as Dmitri Hvorostovsky, Dolora Zajick, Luciano Pavarotti, and many more. But our production dates back almost two years.
David McVicar’s production which debuted at the Met in February of 2009, coupled with Charles Edwards’ massively beautiful set, and Jennifer Tipton’s ingenious dark lighting design, all flow together to form one gorgeous cohesive evening of thrilling theatre. Top it all off with Brigitte Reiffenstuel’s richly colored costumes, and you’ve got more than a cherry atop our multi-tiered operatic cake.
The icing on said cake was the brilliant cast. Starting with Ukrainian bass Alexander Tsymbalyuk. He set the tone perfectly with his sonic boom of a voice. From his first aria, we knew we were in for an exciting ride. Count di Luna was sung by Vitaliy Bilyy. It is no easy task to make an audience fall in love with the villain, but Mr. Bilyy accomplishes this feat with seemingly little effort. His rival, Manrico, was sung by Alfred Kim who also made his debut with the company on that night. And what an exciting debut it was! Tossing out thrilling high notes as if they were nothing at all, Mr. Kim is sure to soon become a favorite with New York audiences. His full lyric sound filled the house. Although, his character was slightly overemphasizing angst, he played the part with conviction and heart. Portraying his tortured gypsy mother was American mezzo Marianne Cornetti. Ms. Cornetti’s voice is akin to those brassy voices that can withstand soaring high notes while maintaining brilliance in the lower register. Her portrayal was absolutely moving. But the icing on top of the cherry was our heroine sung by American soprano Julianna Di Giacomo. Rarely does any audience get the chance to witness greatness on stage. Those of us there that night can count ourselves among those few. Ms. Di Giacomo’s performance was a tour de force of the human condition. Perfectly acted with the right balance of young love and restrained maturity, she had the audience in the palm of her hand the entire evening. With flawless coloratura and beautifully sustained lyric lines, it was shear vocal fireworks!
Adding more icing on top was our conductor Marco Armiliato. What more can be said about the man? He is just a genius and a master of his craft. And making our cup runneth over was the marvelous Metropolitan Opera Chorus.
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And on a personal note: Please, for the love of the art form, shut off your cell phones before the performance. A few moments were destroyed by “music” that Verdi himself would have blushed at. And that’s all I’ll say about that.