Verdi: Il trovatore

COMPOSERS: Verdi
LABELS: Opus Arte
ALBUM TITLE: Verdi
WORKS: Il trovatore
PERFORMER: Carl Tanner, Iano Tamar, Zeljko Lucic, Marianne Cornetti; Moscow Chamber Choir; Bregenzer Festival Choir; Vienna SO/Thomas Rösner; dir. Robert Carsen (Bregenzer, 2006)
CATALOGUE NO: OA 0974 D (NTSC system; dts 5.1: 16:9 anamorphic)
In the unique setting of the theatre on the lake at Bregenz, Paul Steinberg’s vast oil-refinery set must have looked like an ecological disaster. It’s a hugely impressive installation under just about every heading; but is it really the right ambience for Il trovatore? Director Robert Carsen points out in an interview that the libretto makes more than 100 references to fire; but there are others to convents, chapels, prisons and palace gardens, none of which are represented here. Something is lost if the high-Romantic infrastructure of this dark tale of love and revenge is sacrificed. And one pities a cast having to negotiate the debris of the refinery’s waste tip, which looks perilous when the gypsy chorus (or are they eco-warriors?) clamber all over it.

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If the interaction between the principals had been more acute, one might accept it. But it’s all rather vague by Carsen’s own standards, as if just moving around and remaining upright was priority one, with acting coming further down the list. The result is rarely interesting. One could say the same about the singing, all of a decent standard though little of it moves or excites. Thomas Rösner’s conducting, however, does generate real heat, maintaining the pressure on the tempos that Verdi uses to rattle us along from scene to grisly scene. It’s not enough to rescue the performance as a whole. George Hall