IL TROVATORE by Giuseppe Verdi, directed by Stephen Lawless, conducted by Richard Bradshaw, with Eszter Sümegi, Mikhail Agafonov, Irina Mishura and Daniel Sutin. Presented by the Canadian Opera Company at the Hummingbird Centre (1 Front East). April 9, 12 and 15 at 7:30 pm, April 17 at 2 pm. $40-$175, limited $18-$29 for those 18 to 29, 17 and under $18-$50. 416-872-2262. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Verdi's Il Trovatore is about love, jealousy, revenge, death - all the things, in fact, that drive many melodramatic 19th-century operas. The story about Gypsies, children stolen at birth, romantic duels and burnings at the stake is more confusing than most, but Verdi wrote some of his most hummable tunes for this work.
There's stark drama in director Stephen Lawless 's staging, which emphasizes the terror inherent in a society where war is as vital as love. We are always aware of the violence here, for set designer Benoît Dugardyn has planted swords all over the stage and conjures up the executioner's fires as well.
I wish all the singers understood how to use the music to further the work's theatricality. Least successful are Eszter Sümegi as Leonora and Mikhail Agafonov as Manrico, the central star-crossed lovers, who tend toward generic acting and rarely relate to each other, even in their rapturous solos and duets.
Luckily, the other two central characters have a good sense of theatre. Daniel Sutin never skimps on the passion expressed by the romance-thwarted Count di Luna, while Irina Mishura 's single-minded Gypsy, Azucena, who holds the key to the story's mysteries, throws herself fearlessly into each scene.
Musically, the production takes off under conductor Richard Bradshaw , who propels the lush melodies with thrilling urgency. Just as importantly, the voices of his leads singers are sufficiently large and focused to allow the tunes to soar.