14.11.07 A Good Team of Singers News

"A Good Team of Singers"/Cecilia Xuereb / The Malta Independent on Sunday / 02.XI.2014 / Photo: Shaun Sultana.

The libretto of Verdi's opera 'Il Trovatore' may be one of the most absurd imaginable but this is more than made up for by the composer's music.  The score is an almost unbroken string of melodies that must have accounted for its world-wide popularity.  

Posted: 7th November 2014

Review: A Good Team of Singers
Reviewer: Cecilia Xuereb
Published on: The Malta Independent on Sunday
Edition: Sunday 2nd November 2014

Trovatore Event

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Even a person who does not have a clear grasp of the plot can feel the dramatic power of many of the scenes.  It is an opera of immense verve, of almost unbridled temperament, of an unerring genius for the melodramatic.

The composer has taken dance rhythms, like those of the mazurka and the waltz, and developed on them the most passionate and dramatic melodies so that the absurdities, complexities and unintelligibilities of the story are swept away in its unrelenting progress.Each of the four acts of the opera has a title - the Duel, the Gypsy, the Gypsy's son, and the Penalty respectively.  Much of the dramatic action takes place before the curtain goes up on the first act and is related in the course of the opera. When the opera opens Manrico, the baby count who was providentially saved from a burning death, has grown up, is the troubadour of the title and as a follower of the Prince of Biscay is proscribed in Aragon; Azucena, the young gypsy with a child in her arms who witnessed her mother being burnt alive and swore revenge, is old and wrinkled but still unrelenting in her quest for vengeance.

The old Count diLuna who sentenced the gypsy to death, has died leaving as his sole heir the Count di Luna of the opera, who like Manrico is in love with Leonora, who favours Manrico.  This takes us to the end when the Count di Luna orders the execution of Manrico to be witnessed by Azucena only to find out that he has killed his own brother.'Il Trovatore' was presented at the Aurora Theatre in Victoria Gozo by the Leone Philharmonic Society during the first week of October. The production, conducted by Colin Attard, had an excellent team of soloists.   The key role of the opera is the gypsy Azucena sung with a velvety sensuous sound by the Georgian mezzo-soprano Mzia Nioradze.

The passion in her voice was unmistakeable in arias like 'Stride la vampa' while her 'Ai nostrimonti' had a fine dreamy quality.  A contrast to Azucena's fire were the suppressed emotions of Leonora. Soprano Michèle Crider was a dignified Spanish noble-woman whose bel canto hardly warranted the conductor's announcement before the last act that she was carrying on in spite of her not feeling well since she sailed through this act with the same security that she had shown in the previous acts.  Her 'Tacea la notteplacida' and 'Di tale amorchedirsi' with its brilliant cadenza in Act I were finely lyrical and graceful.

Her aria 'D'amorsull'alirosee' in Act IV had a pure legato quality.Stuart Neill in the part of Manrico might not have looked very much like the romantic hero but he certainly has a powerful Verdian tenor voice that reached its peak in the very famous aria "Di quellapira" in Act III, hitting the high notes bang on and acceding to the audience's call for an encore. Baritone Mario Giossi as the Conte di Luna improved from act to act. Bass EmanueleCordaro and soprano May Caruana as Ferrando and Inez respectively fitted in well with the four principals.

The opera also offers plenty of scope for choral singing, both for mixed choirs and for separate male and female voices and the Aurora Opera Chorus rose very well to the challenge presented by the various numbers as did the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of Colin Attard.What was rather disappointing was Novella Tabili's artistic direction that lacked dramatic power and was rather tame.  The colours of the functional set and those of the costumes, the latter as always in the Gozo operas very lavish, were appropriately sombre to reflect the tragic nature of the plot.  But the performance lacked pace.

Neither did the rather long pauses made by the conductor in between arias and ensembles help as every time the rhythm of the production flagged a little further. The choir was not so much part of the action as observers and the dynamics between the various persons on stage were musical rather than dramatic.A welcome addition to the collection of past programmes was the handsome programme with full libretto and an excellent article about Verdi and the opera by Abram Borg.

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