14.10.26 A Production to be Remembered News

Photo: "A production to be remembered"/Albert G. Storace / The Sunday Times of Malta / 26.X.2014

Gozo’s Aurora Opera House staged a successful performance of Verdi’s Il Trovatore. Once more familiar names were at the helm of this production, including orchestra director Colin Attard.  

Posted: 26th October 2014

Review: A Production to be Remembered
Reviewer: Albert G Storace
Published on: The Sunday Times
Edition: Sunday 26th October 2014

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Attard put his all into an intelligent reading of the score with the reliable and hard-working Malta Philharmonic Orchestra and Aurora stalwart Novella Tabili as artistic director and set designer.

Il Trovatore stands out mainly thanks to its series of beautiful melodies. After all, it hails from a period when Verdi and his contemporaries were expected to provide beautiful music.

Verdi dished this out abundantly and generously and it makes up for a lot of failings in the plot.

The drama and tragedy are there and so is the romance and richness of feeling, but a lot goes on between scenes and acts with an equally important sequence of events which occur before the opera gets off the ground and which explain a lot of what happens in due course.

Captain of the Guard Ferrando’s account of the tragedy that befell the di Luna family many years earlier helps explain the tale that unfolds.

From the beginning bass Emanuele Cordaro, in this leading secondary role, sang on very good form.

One could also have an early taste of how well the Aurora Opera Chorus acquainted itself. Not only in this part, which only showcased the male section, but also later in the Soldiers’ Chorus and Miserere.

In the Anvil Chorus and in the great conclusion to Act II, the full chorus displayed how very well-trained, balanced, cohesive and rehearsed its members are. My only reservation was the surprisingly not-very-well-delivered Anvil Strokes in Act II, Scene I.

Cordaro’s was the first in a series of fine voices who regaled the audience with popular arias, duets and ensembles. With voices such as those of Stuart A. Neill (Manrico), Mzia Nioradze (Azucena) and Marzio Giossi (Conte di Luna) it was a pity that Michele Crider’s Leonora could not be considered as a full member of this galaxy.

“The chorus displayed how very well-trained its members are”

14.10.26 A Production to be Remembered News2

This was simply because the soprano was actually indisposed and sang against all odds, something clarified by Attard before the beginning of Act IV. Maybe, the clarification could have come earlier and would have dispelled unfavourable impressions with some.

It was in the upper reaches that the soprano suffered most, but otherwise one could tell that there was a good voice there despite everything and her acting too helped as she was convincing throughout.

So was the other leading lady, Mzia Nioradze, whose Azucena was one of the best I have experienced anywhere, bar some cloudy moments at the very top. Her horror of the stake and strong scenes with Manrico, and still more with di Luna, were superb.

Marzio Giossi’s Conte di Luna revealed a very classy singer who lived his aristocratic role to the full. He may not be that 100 per cent ideal deeply mellow Verdian baritone (and villain of the piece here). Yet, he sang very well indeed revealing some fine, smooth singing even in his well-sustained top register.

Interpreting Manrico, the hero of the piece, Stuart A. Neill, may have appeared a bit ungainly at first but his presence grew on as he flew high. From the start, when he serenaded Leonora offstage, I thought that if he would try to sing that top C in Di quella pira that somehow the quality of his voice could permit it.

Well, he did hold his own in the trio with Leonora and with its confrontational aspect in the Conte di Luna’s regard. I really liked his duets with Azucena and his really beautiful, well-controlled and finely-coloured Ah sib en mio.

Then came Di quella pira, the part all expect (this, I suspect includes the purists) and not only did he do it, but he also sang it even better when encored. It will be long remembered. Mezzo soprano May Caruana and tenor Bernard Busuttil were reliable in the roles of Ines and Ruiz respectively.

Novella Tabili’s stage design was as simple and minimal as could be and in my opinion worked well. In fact, the plainness set off the fine costumes. The crowd scenes were well-handled except for the very conclusion of Act II, when the confrontation between Conte di Luna’s and Manrico’s men could have been made to look a little more realistic.

This performance has continued to achieve well-deserved appreciation of the hard work put on by the Aurora production team.

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