Opera Scotland

Trovatore 2015Scottish Opera

Read more about the opera Trovatore

This staging, originally from 1992, took a while to settle - always strong musically, but not quite gelling as drama. At the last revival, as long ago as 2001, the production was entrusted to the sure hand of Peter Watson as director, and everything fell into place at last. The result was almost revelatory. This fourth run, under a fourth director, Martin Lloyd-Evans, sounded highy promising, with an emphasis on the medieval doom-laden atmosphere - lots of dark shadows and dramatic contrasts. Tim Hatley's brooding fortifications were always successful, and provide ideal atmosphere, even when they are re-arranged to a point where he can no longer be credited in the programme.

Tobias Ringborg showed, with his recent Rigoletto, that he has a good grasp of Verdian dramatic style. This Trovatore showed a further advance - an ideal sense of momentum as the characters hurtled to their inevitable end. He brought out an enormous amount of telling instrumental detail. The chorus also had a superb evening. Susannah Wapshott's training clearly paid special attention to dynamics, so in the opening scene the men sounded as though they were actually listening, with appropriate horror and hushed tones, to Ferrando's vital narrative.

The soloists may not have been Caruso's 'four best singers in the world', but they came close, and showed an unusual awareness of the appropriate Verdian style, with lots of bel canto detail in their singing. Gwyn Hughes Jones, known here previously only in concert, produced plenty of variety from his bright-toned tenor, and had the heft for 'Di quella pira', but was even better in the legato line of 'Ah si, ben mio' that led to it. Claire Rutter has already given us wonderful performances in two of Verdi's great middle-period trio, Rigoletto and Traviata, and here took on the third with equal success, having clearly worked with the conductor on the fluidity of her phrasing. Her opening scene gained an unusual degree of support from a particularly positive Inez from Naomi Harvey.

While the Verdian credentials of the soprano and tenor were already known, the mezzo and baritone were less familiar in this repertoire. No need to worry, for Anne Mason and Roland Wood between them almost stole the show with a wealth of tireless and idiomatic singing. Jonathan May was well in the picture as Ferrando, likewise the Ruiz of Carlos Fidalgo. Perhaps an excellent David Morrison from the chorus should also be mentioned. He has appeared in every performance of this work by Scottish Opera, going back to the first production in 1986, and must now be counted as a very Old Gypsy indeed.

The only quibble over this revival has to be with some minor elements of the staging, which showed signs of the haste with which Martin Lloyd-Evans may have taken on the job. There were many superb details, including the dramatic handling of the opening scene. The abduction of Leonora from the convent also worked particularly strongly, with the introduction of a silent and frail mother abbess figure to emphasise the near-sacriligious behaviour to which Luna's obsession had led him.

For the rest, the soldiery, prone to sporadic bouts of sword-waving, had a tendency to queue up to shuffle off stage. The new arrangement for the dungeon cell was spacious and quite comfy-looking, not claustrophobic, and the interplay of the characters had a tendency to lose focus. If memory serves, each run has had new costumes, but these seemed a bit of a mixture of periods and styles, less effective than the last lot. The lighting could also have done with more contrast - clearly we don't want it so dark that we can't see what's going on, but a bit more shadowy contrast would have helped. Modern fire regulations must make this kind of drama difficult to light dramatically, but more could surely have been done, given the repeated textual references to flames, pyres, and so on.

However these are minor points that hardly detract from what is a thoroughly enjoyable and musically superb revival of this near-impossible masterpiece.

Performance Cast

Ferrando captain of Di Luna's guard

Jonathan May

Inez confidante of Leonora

Naomi Harvey

Leonora a Duchess, lady-in-waiting to the Princess of Aragon

Claire Rutter

Count di Luna a young noble of Aragon

Roland Wood (Exc Jun 11, 13)

David Kempster (Jun 11, 13)

Manrico a chieftain under the Prince of Biscay

Gwyn Hughes Jones

Azucena a Biscayan gypsy woman

Anne Mason

Old Gypsy

David Morrison

Messenger

Fraser Simpson

Ruiz a soldier in Manrico's service

Carlos Fidalgo

Performance DatesTrovatore 2015

Map List

Theatre Royal, Glasgow | Glasgow

7 May, 19.15 9 May, 19.15 12 May, 19.15 14 May, 19.15 17 May, 16.00

Festival Theatre, Edinburgh | Edinburgh

21 May, 19.15 24 May, 16.00 27 May, 19.15 30 May, 19.15

Eden Court Theatre | Inverness

4 Jun, 19.15 6 Jun, 19.15

His Majesty's Theatre, Aberdeen | Aberdeen

11 Jun, 19.30 13 Jun, 19.15

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