Verdi, il trovatore
Seattle Opera
Marion Oliver McCaw hall
2019

Scenic Design: Christopher Mumaw
Costume Design: Candace Frank
Lighting Design: Christophe Forey
Original Production Design: John Conklin
Conductor: Carlo Montanaro
Photos copyright Philip Newton and Jacob Lucas
Poster Design: Adrian Swan

The new production of Verdi’s Il Trovatore at Seattle Opera packs such a thrilling punch that even my 80-year-old body pumped teenaged adrenaline again and again at Saturday’s opening night performance.

- Rod Parke, Seattle Gay News

Keeping all their interactions clear and impactful in a notoriously complex story was the laudable achievement of stage director Dan Wallace Miller[.]

...Depicting a couple scenes in shadowplay at stage rear, particularly during Azucena’s narrative aria about why she became vengeance-crazed, worked excellently.
After a series of productions somehow skewed, perverse, and/or pallid, the first Seattle Opera production of the new year comes like a powerful gust of invigorating fresh air: a show squarely, single-mindedly focused on presenting the work of art at hand as vividly and idiomatically as possible.
Seattle Opera has risen to these challenges with two terrific casts in a fairly straightforward approach to ‘Trovatore,’ with mostly period sets (originally by John Conklin, reworked by associate designer Christopher Mumaw) and costumes (by Candace Frank), an imaginative newcomer as stage director and a first-rate veteran conductor in the orchestra pit.

...Seattle stage director Dan Wallace Miller made his company mainstage debut with this production, presenting an original, effective approach to an opera that requires a great deal of dashing about — duels, battles, deaths, amorous clinches, treachery, avowals of hatred and love, and renunciations. In one key scene, he reduced a chaotic battle to a slow-motion background for the lovers’ crucial real-time interchange: chancy but effective. Miller also made vivid use of ‘shadow plays,’ backlighted episodes with actors dramatizing the narrative.
Il Trovatore (The Troubadour) at Seattle Opera’s McCaw Hall Hall through Jan. 26, is a death-soaked, secret-infused and passion-obsessed opera. Giuseppe Verdi’s gory tale of revenge and jealousy is one juicy piece — when it doesn’t stumble like a lame warhorse.

Which it didn’t. With an intricate plot, mixed identities, terrible secrets and musical beauty and lyricism, it conjures up a well-crafted Shakespearean tragedy. And as with Shakespeare, the audience must pay close attention to fully appreciate it. Thanks to great singers and smart production choices, SO told the tale well.

...Aside from the strong singers, this production’s success lay to a great extent in the ingenuity of stage director Dan Wallace Miller[...] who clarified this complicated story by breaking it down into digestible scenes, cutting some material, and succinctly translating and updating Salvatore Cammarano’s libretto. Despite the challenges posed by its convoluted storyline, this production proved easy to follow despite the generations of feuds.

- Angela Allen, Oregon ArtsWatch

The plot of Il Trovatore is mighty convoluted, so I won’t summarize it here. I remembered it being delightfully campy in a Dickensian ‘everyone is connected in secret ways and everything that happens today is directly linked to the sins of 30 years prior’ kind of way. I don’t know if I’ve grown in empathy or if Wallace’s direction brings the sadism to the fore. But as I sat in the auditorium watching Count Di Luna toss the ashes of her dead mother and son onto the bound Azucena’s head, I thought, ‘This story is really fucked up.’

...That the staging at Seattle Opera is always beautiful and high concept goes without saying. But I have to say that Act Two Scene Two, when Di Luna barges into the convent to kidnap Leonora, may be the best I’ve ever seen. His hubris setting himself up against God as his rival is made visual when he breaks the cross and it is genuinely shocking, even to a heathen like me.

Manrico busting open the big wooden doors to come to her rescue in a flash of white light is the most heroic entrance in history. He literally makes time stand still (I don’t care if frozen actors are used all the time in theater and opera, but never to better effect than here). Modern audiences are more likely to be cynical than breathless in response to the type of drama the 19th century loved. But sometimes dramatic staging just works.
Director Dan Miller presents the events of ‘Trovatore’ as the violence of two military and social forces engaged in warfare lasting more than a generation. Their excesses require that the sons and daughters of the both sides dedicate their lives to vengeance.

Miller’s presentation of the symbols of savagery (bodies are piled in the di Luna courtyard; the ashes of the infant di Luna are carried around in a silver urn and are even used ritualistically).

...Director Miller has created effective flashbacks to the grisly deaths of Azucena’s mother and infant son through means of prominent silhouetted pantomimes that take place on a scrim at the back part of the stage.

...I enthusiastically recommend the opera, vocal performances and staging of the Seattle Opera’s “Il Trovatore” both for the veteran opera goer and the person new to opera.

- William Burnett, Opera Warhorses; Part 1, Part 2

 
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