Last Month Verdi’s opera was staged at the Grosses Festspielhaus. The performance of August 15 was telecast. If you have a subscription to you can watch it at your leisure. I just got around to viewing it. Alvis Hermanis’ production is another on the ever growing list of those that are best viewed from behind a post. He placed the action in an  art museum vaguely resembling Madrid’s Prado. The protagonists are dressed in museum attendant uniforms or in the case of Ferrando as a tourist guide leading the chorus through the galleries. They soon change into period specific costumes though the paintings remain in view. At times they swing to and fro like ducks in a carny shooting arcade. A lot of nonsense about which I’ll say nothing more.

Il Trovatore is about singing. Stand and deliver works fine if you have the voices. Innovative staging (not that anything here deserved that appellation) can never make up for the absence of the great singers that this opera requires. All four principal roles require great voices. Anna Netrebko who not too long ago was a light lyric soprano has matured into a true Verdi soprano of the exact type required for both the Trovatore and Forza Leonoras. her reading of D’amor sull’ali rosee was glorious even if there were two tiny cracks in the broadcast performance. If she can keep singing like this the mantle of Zinka Milanov will fit. She’s just about the same age that Milanov was when she entered her prime.

The other female lead was the Canadian contralto Marie-Nicole Lemieux. She has a large and agile voice which handled Azucena’s demanding music with power and facility.

Thing were not as sanguine on the male side of the program. Tenor Placido Domingo who in his dotage has taken to masquerading as a baritone was said to be indisposed, but sang anyway. This should never happen. If a performer is not at his best he should stay in his hotel room. Domingo who at age 73 has understandably lost his high notes now has a vocal range of little more than an octave. Thus he also lacks a baritone’s high notes. He dodged every difficulty in his portrayal of the Count di Luna. Were he not the great Domingo he would never be allowed near any of Verdi’s major baritone roles. Hard as it is to write, it’s time for him to stop singing.

Francesco Meli sang the title role. He’ scheduled to sing Ernani at the Met this coming season, with Domingo as the baritone Don Carlo. He has a slender voice that made almost no impact on this performance. ‘Ah, si ben mio’ lacked lyricism while ‘Di quella pira’ lacked force and thrust as well as a few high Cs. Meli seemed like the Invisible Tenor.

Bass Riccardo Zanellato as the Count’s henchman and part time tour guard showed a pleasant lyric bass. Conductor Daniele Gatti seemed fatigued. He mostly conducted sitting down while the Vienna Philharmonic appeared to think they were playing Richard Strauss rather than Verdi. In summary, Netrebko was the main reason for this staging; without her just another pedestrian Trovatore.


Anna Netrebko (Leonora)
Marie-Nicole Lemieux (Azucena)
Diana Haller member of the young singers project (Ines)
Francesco Meli (Manrico)
Plácido Domingo (Count di Luna)
Riccardo Zanellato (Ferrando)
Gerard Schneider member of the young singers project (Ruiz)
Miloš Bulajić member of the young singers project (A Messenger)
Raimundas Juzuitis member of the young singers project (An Old Gypsy)

Daniele Gatti conductor
Alvis Hermanis stage director, set designer
Eva Dessecker costumes
Gleb Filshtinsky lightings
Ineta Sipunova video
Gudrun Hartmann associate director
Uta Gruber-Ballehr associate set designer
Ronny Dietrich dramaturgy
Ernst Raffelsberger chorus master

Members of the Angelika Prokopp Sommerakademie of the Vienna Philharmonic
Concert Association of the Vienna State Opera Chorus
Wiener Philharmoniker
Movie director : Agnes Méth