Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Met Gets It Right

Film comments regarding the Marx Brothers' A Night at the Opera have stated that the movie "does to Il trovatore what should be done to Il trovatore." But what really should be done to this middle-period Verdi blockbuster is give it a fine production. Scottish director David McVicar did just that last evening and gave us another good night at the Metropolitan Opera. Updating opera productions sometimes becomes laughable, such as a New York City Opera La traviata ending up in an AIDS ward, but moving the medieval setting to Napoleonic-era Spain works beautifully this time. The drop curtain, inspired by a detail from Francisco Goya's Pilgrimage to San Isidro, sets the tone when one enters the auditorium. (And, yes, I was a bad citizen; I took a photo. But it was during intermission as the audience returned to their seats for the second half.)

A cast that was strong down the line and an excellent conductor also helped to make this a memorable evening. The Goyaesque mood was sustained throughout, with later scenes evoking such masterworks as The Disasters of War and The Third of May 1808. Gloom and doom prevailed, as well they should, despite the upbeat nature of much of the music. The strong cast, with Dolora Zajick's Azucena perhaps first among equals, were team players. Good audience behavior, on the whole. Only one cellphone went off.