It is by no means a bad Il Trovatore, which opened 2009 at the Metropolitan Opera. A well-known production first seen in Chicago 2006, the conservatively-inclined Metropolitan Opera was not taking too big a risk giving director David McVicar his house debut. Not that David McVicar´s style is too far from what would be deemed acceptable by Met audiences: His trademark is the character development and personal direction of the singers, often done with some updating of the setting, but rarely into present times.
Accordingly, this Trovatore is updated from the 15th Century to the Spanish Liberation War in the beginning of the 19th Century, inspired by a set of etchings "The disaster of War " by the Spanich painter Goya. A dark, rotating set, effectively conveying a dark period. Not at all experimenting or innovative in terms of sets, however David McVicar´s trademark, the personal direction of the singers, is seen to full in this production with the most developed characters I have ever seen in any production of Il trovatore.
Being given four lead-singers, none of which are known to be especially fine stage actors, makes McVicars achievements even more remarkable: 50% of them are outstanding, 25% are fine and 25% less so.
Best are Dolora Zajick and Dmitri Hvorostovsky. This is simply the finest thing I have seen Zajick do on stage: Vocally the rather low-lying part is perfect for her and she has the necessary heft. But what makes her Azucena truly outstanding is her portrayal of her as a shell-shocked woman, who has become insane, probably as a result of post-traumatic stress. Far from a villain, she, too is a victim. And Dmitri Hvorostovsky, who previously has shown that he can in fact act if sufficiently inspired, is a dashing as well as dramatically convincing Luna. Vocally, he may occasionally sound a bit strained, but my guess is that few will care.
Leonora has been the calling card of Sondra Radvanovsky for almost a decade, and she will probably divide the viewers of this DVD as she does in the theater. Her Leonora is rather like a neurotic school-girl than a noble lady, however this is as valid an interpretation as any. My reservations lie with her shaky intonation (admittedly seen worse than on this DVD) and a voice that occasionally seems to be rather out of her control, though definitely large enough for the part.
Points to Marcelo Alvarez for obviously trying to act on stage and not only stand and deliver his area. But no doubt he is hired solely based on his vocal capabilities, which, admittedly he has. Radvanovsky and Alvarez in the superbly directed final scene do fine. With the more dramatically inclined singers we will hopefully see in this production the coming years, this scene will be electrifying.
Marco Armiliato is a follower, rather than a leader here, not succeeding in bringing out the nuances in the score, unfortunately.
The DVD to own? Perhaps, but Jonas Kaufmann and Anja Harteros will be appearing in the same work in Munich next year, which will probably be released on DVD as well.
The bottom line (scale of 1-5, 3= average):
Marcelo Àlvarez: 3
Sondra Radvanovsky: 3-4
Dmitri Hvorostovsky: 5
Dolora Zajick: 5
Marco Armiliato: 2
David McVicars production: 4
Overall impression: 4