Il Trovatore


SEATTLE OPERA (1989 & 1997) | TULSA OPERA [US Premiere of Le Trouvère] (1990) | HOUSTON GRAND OPERA (1992) | VICTORIA STATE OPERA (1994) | VANCOUVER OPERA (1997) | CANADIAN OPERA COMPANY (1998) | SAN FRANCISCO OPERA (2003)
THE AGE PERFORMING ARTS AWARDS (Australia), Best Production of the Year (1994)

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Trovatore 1
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IL TROVATORE by Giuseppe Verdi, based on the play El trovador by Antonio García Gutiérrez
Conductor: R. Bradshaw/D. Lawton/R. Saccani/D. Agler/R. Buckley
Cast: Vaness/Urbanová/Sweet/Gasteen/Wray, Zajick/Mishura/Dever, Grimsley/Baker/Agache, Ashbaker/Sirianni/Margison
Production: J. Conklin (scenery & clothes), J. Sullivan/J. Tipton/R. Wierzel/P. Kaczorowski (lighting)

“Seattle Opera, in its new Trovatore, manages to dismiss most of the absurdist elements in the opera by reducing the libretto to its twin essences of character and emotion. The result is passionate and electrifying Verdi, a blast of fresh air in a sea of platitudes. Everything and everyone in Trovatore is highly charged. Moderation and compromise are words that are rarely uttered; love, hatred, revenge are always on the cutting edge of insanity. Most productions get bogged down in plot details, rushing from one scene to the next, one exclamation point to another to explain the whys and wherefores. In contrast, Seattle Opera isolates the pivotal characters and situations on which the opera turns by streamlining detail. The production is abstract expressionism in the theater. Nicholas Muni is well aware of all the problems in this opera; his collaboration with designer John Conklin is complete. They see eye to eye. Muni is more than a traffic cop. Every move and gesture of his characters is carefully calculated to highly effective ends. Never inconsistent, the production has the ring of unanimity of thoughts and action. What a rarity. The more involved the production becomes, the more persuasive its argument. Little is naturalistic in Muni’s staging. Characters move in ways both introverted and extroverted. They are often silent witnesses to an intimate scene, sometimes hiding in the shadows; on occasion they remain onstage, their backs turned to the action. What is particularly telling is how each character maintains a taut, anxious posture. Even Leonora, the innocent, is tense. The intensity, which Conklin and Muni establish at the outset and maintain to the end, is a real accomplishment.”
R.M. Campbell, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer (September, 1989)

“Despite the popularity of Verdi’s Il Trovatore there are few, if any, productions currently worth looking at. A new approach to Verdi’s classic directed by Nicholas Muni and designed by John Conklin, a controversial new production, was unveiled last month in Seattle. This is quite unlike any production of Il Trovatore seen in the past. A dark and heavily symbolic staging, with scene changes swiftly executed, allowed the audience to concentrate, first and foremost, on the singing. Unlike the MET’s recent fiasco, this version of Trovatore is never boring. Above all else, Muni’s concept tries to focus attention on the obsessive behavior that propels each of the opera’s main characters towards the libretto’s tragic climax.”
George Heymont, San Francisco Back Bay Reporter (October, 1989)

“Seattle Opera’s new production proves that Trovatore can be not only stirring song but powerful theater as well. The overriding reason is simply that Seattle Opera has taken Trovatore seriously as music drama, giving it the rehearsal time and emotional commitment that opera companies often give such obviously theatrical works such as Elektra and Wozzeck. Stage director Nicholas Muni makes the oft-abused plot not only plausible but compelling, showing how the passionate, obsessed characters are driven by each other and the forces around them toward violent ends. He seems to have inspired the principal singers to act and phrase with unusual feeling.
Mark Mandel, The Oregonian (September, 1989)

“Back in 1985, when Seattle Opera presented Walküre as the first installment of its radically new-look Ring, the boos emerging from the conservative souls in torment sounded quite as loudly as the iconoclast’s praises. Now, only four years later, an equally innovative approach to another the venerable masterpiece, Il Trovatore, seemed to arouse not a flicker of concern. This production, for all its unconventionality, did take Verdi seriously. It made good theater and good musico-dramatical sense. It worked. I’d be willing to bet that it never occurred to those fortunate folk who were hearing their first-ever Trovatore that this was a tired old piece of flummery that badly needed the Marx brothers to cheer it up. Conversely, quite a few veteran opera buffs must have undergone the salutary shock of being reawakened to the fact that this was an extraordinary work, not least because Verdi’s attitude to conventions he uses is as radical and daring as Wagner’s sweeping dismissal of well-worn formulae. Muni does something similar by presenting Trovatore as a surrealistic psychodrama whose central characters are inexorably trapped by the intensity of their obsessions. But these obsession states are given added force by juxtaposing them against inaccessible alternatives, even something as simple as a square of blue sky. Thus, the claustrophobia induced by the great gloomy back wall of John Conklin’s set is not lessened but heightened when that wall opens panels onto another but impossibly remote world, the dissonance of these stage pictures creating the kind of strangeness at once lucid and lunatic, of a Chirico painting—and the motifs are not static but progressive.”
William Dunlop, Seattle Weekly (September, 1989)

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