Enrico Caruso declared that all one needed for a good performance of Verdi’s masterpiece of the id gone berserk – Il Trovatore – were the four greatest singers in the world. Unfortunately they did not show up last night at the Met’s first performance of its new production at least if you were listening on the radio. Alas, they almost never show up for this opera.
On paper the listener had a good shot at three out of four. Marcelo Álvarez at his best never had the right sound for Manrico. Not anywhere near his best he barked his way through the role and gave a textbook example of how not to maintain a lyrical line in a less than provincial reading of “Ah, si ben mio.” His voice is dry and unpleasant and for this he gets opening night next season. He did a little better with “Di quella pira”. He omitted the first interpolated high C , but sang the second (down to a B). There’s not much left of his voice which was a pleasant, though not remarkable one when he first appeared.
Manrico needs a tenor with a firm and focused tone like that of Björling, Tucker, Corelli, or Domingo. If you have to transpose the Cs down a half tone fine. Even Caruso did it.
The 39 year old soprano, Sondra Radvanovsky, has an odd sounding voice that becomes fluttery the higher it goes. I think it’s because her voice is not well placed coming more from the throat than the mask. I suspect her voice will not age well. Her rendition of Leonora was mixed. In the first act she mangled the high note she inserted near the end of “Tacea la notte placida”. It was a scream of indeterminate pitch. She ended the aria’s cabaletta with a low note. I don’t know if she intended to end the piece that way or if her nerves were shot after the earlier mishap. She did better in the fourth act. “D’amor sull’ali rosee” was well sung, but if you were expecting the lush sound of Milanov or Leontyne Price you were disappointed. There was a loud claque at the show – professional or amateur I don’t know – that sometimes carried the applause a little further than warranted.
Dolora Zajick has been one of the greatest of all Verdi mezzo-sopranos for the last two decades, but even she was not at her best. She got no applause after Stride la vampa – the claque was asleep. She attempted a high note near the end of her scena (“Ferma! Son io che parlo a te!”) with Manrico in the second act that while not a scream, was more an off-pitch shriek. Her mid and low notes are still outstanding.
Dimitri Hvorostovsky should have taken on the Count at the Met 10 years ago. The best Verdi baritone of his generation hasn’t sung as much Verdi as he should have. At this stage in his career his voice is not as bright and beautiful as it was just a few years ago. His top is also not as free as formerly. There was nothing wrong with his portrayal it just wasn’t what was expected of it. He’s also starting to bellow – just a bit – at places where he used to sing suavely. “Il Balen” was ordinary. He didn’t even sound as good as he did when I heard him in Simon Boccanegra in San Francisco last year and then he was a little underpowered.
Bass Kwangchul Youn made little of a part (Ferrando) that is typically made little of. Gianandrea Noseda conducted. He followed the singers without incident. If the Met’s Lucia Di Lammermoor 10 days ago was a home run this 600th performance of Trovatore by the Met was a sacrifice fly. I’ve heard the opera sung at least as well in Sweden with a cast including no one you’ve ever heard of.