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on 23 June 2003
Curious trend this, whereby italian operas in major centres are now commonly cast without a single italian singer, at least in the main roles. Whether that obeys to an acute scarcity of competent, world-class Italian singers remains to be seen, maybe globalisation arrived to the arts with its full impact. Any way, this release is typical of its source, very well produced and with interesting and pertinent supplementary material, a feature other publishers ought to imitate.
The end result is uneven, though, in spite of the stunning Moshinsky production for The Royal Opera, a significant improvement over his previous Australian effort which has been variously broadcast over world television and seen in many countries. The main problem lies with Cura's Manrico, caught here in a problematic evening none the less the loud cheering and applause at the end courtain calls; visually he certainly looks the part. I can't say whether he's going through recurrent vocal problems or if this was an isolated incident, but what we have here is a very wobbly vocal production that to me marred an otherwise wonderful night at the opera (London, 3rd May 2002), where with "tricks of the trade" Cura tried, sometimes more successfully than others, to conceal the fact that his vocal instrument was in substandard condition; alarm lights up for the listener from the very "Deserto sulla terra" moment. Top honours are shared by Hvorostovsky and Naef, in their respective roles of the Count and Azucena. The siberian's is one of the most effective impersonations of the Count I've ever seen, acted with utter conviction and bravado, sung with impeccable and effectively nuanced vocal production, velvety when it calls for, full voiced when pertinent; no wonder then that "Il balen del tuo sorriso" brings the house down -I'd add that young italian baritones aspiring to tackle the rôle ought well study this portrayal-. Nor less can we say about the Azucena, the part chosen by Naef to show her proficiency at the ROH for the first time. Looking perhaps youngish for the part, especially in her scenes when she shares the stage with Cura, her powerful mezzo voice soars majestically over the Covent Garden stage, bringing memories of earlier, italian famous exponents of the part. Villarroel's voice is perhaps not strong enough for Leonora but she in the end acquits herself quite successfully, not a great Leonora perhaps but satisfactory all round none the less; her pianissimi are exquisite. The Ferrando equals Cura in wobbliness, the Inés seems cool and detached. The chorus and orchestra are in top form, Rizzi's tempi in the fast side, sometimes unnecessarily so, or maybe uncalled for (I went back to Carlo Maria Giulini's essay on the subject of this work's suggested tempi, originally marked by Verdi himself on his score, which the illustrious Italian conductor studied closely whilst preparing his excellent audio-only recording made in Rome some 20 years ago for DG; the essay is published in the booklet that accompanies it and is recommended reading for those who own the album).
In sum: peaks and valleys, but an all-round satisfactory experience, well directed for television by Brian Large and very well recorded, sound-wise, like most BBC Opus Arte releases I've come across. If you happen to live in a city which is a major opera centre, you may well experience the work live and in a similarly good -or even better- performance sometime or the other, with even perhaps at least some of these same singers and thereby doing without this album perfectly well. But if, like most of us, you don't, you won't go wrong by ordering this DVD, which for a fraction of the price of a decent seat at the Metropolitan Opera or the Chicago Lyric Opera -and certainly at Covent Garden, where the performance was recorded and good tickets go over the £PRICE barrier-, renders all round satisfaction, with the caveats referred to above.
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on 13 July 2012
I would have served my own interests best if I had watched the documentary first for much valuable insight into this 2002 production from Covent Garden of this Verdi favourite is given. There are valuable contributions from conductor, director, costume designer and fight arranger as well as those of Jose Cura, Dmitri Hvorostovsky and Yvonne Nael although those of Veronica Villarroel border on the silly. The documentary does give pertinent details of the production team's approach to both staging and character interpretation. The decision was made to set the production in the 1860s with a bow to Garibaldi and Italian reunification and here both sets and costumes (including red shirts for the gypsies) complement the action. There are a number of introductions that include the master stroke of having the Count di Luna actually execute Manrico; an action that heightens the final dramatic moments of the production. Others, which include far too explicit embraces between the lovers, are of more questionable merit. Most controversal of all is the introductory chorus of part III, designed as a homage to Schlager duelling, which ends with the rape of Azucena.

It is a marketing misfortune that Jose Cura's fine performance as Alfredo in La Traviata in Paris is presently unavailable on DVD for it is a better monument to the tenor's talents. As Manrico the singer has some very good moments but his appearance complete with an abundance of facial hair, red shirt, cigar and wrist bands does detract from performance appreciation. In the documenentary Cura explains that the definite decision was made to portray Manrico as a macho latino gypsy which is certainly in keeping with the character of this very physical production but it does also pose the question as to why a refined lady in waiting to the Princess of Aragon could be so drawn to him (an extreme example of the attraction of opposites?). There is no opportunity for any of the elegance displayed in the role by Placido Domingo or the great reassurance provided on stage by Luciano Pavaroti.

The production does have two stand-out performances. As the villain of the piece Dmitri Hvorostovsky is most convincing as both singer and actor in the role of the Count di Luna whose obsessive love for Leonora is totally unrequited. Since the passing of the late Piero Cappuccilli the baritone must now be the undisputed master of the role. As the revenge bent gypsy Yvonne Naef, until now a singer unknown to me, gives a masterly performance as Azucena. Blessed with a fine mezzo voice the singer makes an auspicious Covent Garden debut. She does come across as looking rather too young for the role which is at its most evident when Azucena and Manrico are the only two artistes on stage.

My fist introduction to Veronica Villarroel was as Helene in the 2000 production of Jerusalem at Teatro Carlo Felice, Genova. I then concluded that although an accomplished soprano the singer was not ideal for Verdi. Her performance as Leonora tends to confirm such a judgement. The singer is certainly elegant when first introduced in part I and is at her best in part VI during the closing scenes of the opera but she does lack the stage presence of Raina Kabaivanska and the vocal power of Eva Marton.

Certain productions give fifth lead status to Ferrando but such is not the case at Covent Garden for this is strictly a quartet affair with the bass role relegated to the sidelines. By intention the staging is rather dark but the DVD has excellent sound and both orchestra and chorus under the baton of Carlo Rizzi, perform well.

This production is certainly unusual but there are many pluses and the production team deserve every credit for the continuity of their original intentions. I feel the production will best serve the interests of someone seeking an alternative version of the opera and here it is pleasing to note that the DVD is marketed at a very acceptable price. In 1978 Herbert von Karajan masterminded a well staged production at Vienna with Placido Domingo and Raina Kabaivanska most impressive as the lovers. The Met's 1988 production, under the baton of James Levine has Pavarotti still in very fine voice but Eva Marton's Leonora has not met with universal approval. In 1983 the Sydney Opera House mounted a production virtually designed as a solo
promenade for Dame Joan Sutherland. The great soprano was then in the twilight of her career but there is still something grand about her Leonora which is missing at Covent Garden.

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on 12 February 2011
What a refreshing performance of an old war horse with insight and flare. There needs to be a good balance between both leading male characters in this opera for it to have any credence. After all , by blood they are brothers although as different as chalk and cheese so therefore Hvorostovsky gives a perfect foil to Cura in the title role with both showing equal macho bravado. The female characters are very good also although Villaroel looks a little past the young beauty stage and not showing a great deal of difference from Naef (Azucena)in stage years. Still both have excellent singing abilities and make the quartet of characters well sung and believable. I particularly loved the setting With its artilery and machine atmosphere. Its a shame that those big guns actually have no part in the opera. One aspect that I particularly liked was the fact that in this production Di Luna actually dispatched Manrico himself with a pistol in the final moments adding to the final outcome where he realises he has killed the long lost brother whom he had searched for for so long.The period also did nothing to deflect the story. If anything, in my oppinion, it seems to work better in this period with a little less swahbuckling and a hint of nineteenth century pomp and courtesy. All in all I can recommend this DVD filled with so many operatic ikons to all and sundry.
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on 12 June 2012
Picture quality 5
Sound quality 4 - some tremble on the very high notes of Sondra Radvanovsky (Leonora).
Sets 5 - traditional sets on a revolving stage allowing quick movement between scenes.
Clarity of storytelling 5 - the story which can be confusing is very well told.
Music making 5
Acting 5
Direction (camera work) 5
Singing 5 - Everybody excellent. Sondra Radvanovsky singing Leonora and Dmitri Hvorostovsky as count Di Luna particularly fine.
Costumes 5 - 19th century.
Overall a feast for the eyes and ears. Highly recommended.
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on 21 January 2017
Jose Cura as Manrico and Dimitri Hvorostovsky as the count supply their powerful voices to give intensity to this magnificent Verdi opera. Both the parts of Azucena and Leonora are well performed. The sets are carefully designed to provide the necessary atmosphere and artistic merit to the different scenes. Also I'm pleased that costumes contemporary to the story are used. Another point is that it is a relatively recent performance of 2002 vintage.
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on 7 July 2015
Il Trovatore is one of my must have operas and I have been looking for a well sung, well staged version. This meets the first criteria but i normally avoid any thing by David McVicar and, as usual, the set is daft. Having said that the singing and the music are superb and Hvorostovsky is surely the finest Conte di Luna the world has at this time. Vocally and in acting the entire cast excel and at the rostrum Armiliato leads the orchestra in a faultless presentation of the magnificent score. I have seen this opera staged so much better but rarely have the performances reached this standard. Love McVicar....Buy it. Hate McVicar...Give it a go.
David Erskine, Alloa Scotland.
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on 11 April 2003
I bought this just to give Jose Cura a chance as Manrico. I am afraid he disappointed me. He was too much as a brute, in addition to the wobbly singing. Dmitri Hvorostovsky's Count on the other hand is wonderful from start to finish. His acting as well as his singing is exemplary. The only thing that was intrusive was the sword fighting with Cura. It intruded much too much on the singing.
Veronica Villaroel's Leonora too was very good. Her acting and singing were blended very nicely. Yvonne Naef's Azucena was also good, but I thought she lacked the bite of Simionato's or Cossotto's interpretation of the vengeful gypsy.
I would have to say that Dmitri Hvorostovsky was the star here. This seemed for me to be a Trovatore with the Trovatore. Cura's wobbly voice was too much of a instrution for me enjoy the opera fully. The fact that he acted and sang like a brute and not like a passionate poet, as I see Manrico, may be the fault of the director of the production. The production was OK, but I'd would much prefer a traditional setting for this opera. But on the other hand were the sets and costumes consistant and better than other production of opera nowadays.
Carlo Rizzi's conducting was crisp and exciting. Overall is this performance good, if you can accept Manrico to be a wobbly brute. The picture on this DVD is very good with it's 16:9 image. The Dolby Digital 5.1 sound too is good, but it would be even better if the producers of the DVD would do the same as DG and added a DTS track. But it is very good nonetheless.
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on 5 December 2016
The setting is brought forward from the 15th century, which I think was the original period, to what looks like the 19th century, but it works very well.
The set is a massive revolving affair affair with a citadel and foreboding stairway . It revolves however to give a seamless transition to other scenes as appropriate.
Fernando opens with an explanation of the background of the action to come, he is sung ably by Stefan Kocan.
When Sondra Radvanovsky appears a real treat is in store, her Leonora has a beautifully rounded mobile voice, her phrasing flows easily, an aural delight.
The anvil chorus scene is most entertaining and well sung, I would love to have played one of the anvils myself, but I am not as well muscled as the stage blacksmiths.
Azucena is the richly toned mezzo Dolora Zajick, one always looks forward to hearing her.
It makes a change to hear Marcelo Alvarez in a role other than the Duke in Rigoletto. Here he does a fine job as Manrico, and is well suited to the role.
Hvorostovsky makes a grand glowering villain, one can really enjoy his powerful baritone. My wife loves his hair!
All minor roles and chorus are to a very high standard. This is by far the best Trovatore that I have seen. I thoroughly recommend.
Incidentally, this review mistakenly appeared against the blue ray version some time ago. I saw this on sky arts and it has only just reached the top of my wish list. It will be in my library shortly. Just an addendum, this is now part of my library as promised.
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on 23 August 2013
I like this performance very much. The singers and also the plot is very good, but i choose this dvd special fot the bariton hvorostovsky, who is unique in playing and singing.

with greetings fons van zijl edam/holland
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on 16 November 2002
I saw this live on the night it was recorded and seeing the DVD makes me release what good value they are compared with opera seats.
The performance of Jose Cura and Dmitri Hvorostovsky were both stunning. Jose may be the up and coming star but for me Dmitri showed greater depth.
The performance was earlier this year and the quality of the DVD production is top rate, unlike some of the older opera DVDs I have bought.
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