Il Trovatore - Metropolitan Opera, 1/9/2013
Berti, Racette, Blythe, Markov, Stamboglis / Callegari
An operagoer (like myself) inclined to look first at the soprano spot in a cast listing might perhaps have thought that this would be a smaller-scaled revival, in line with Patricia Racette's familiar and admirable -- though, you know, smaller-scaled -- take on Leonora. That thought would have been completely wrong. Racette is herself, but everyone else involved puts on a hell of a shouting contest... mostly in the best way.
What Stephanie Blythe does is hardly to be called "shouting", but her sound is unbelievably loud and full throughout, as much so in this full-length part as in her gooseflesh-inducing one-act cameo in the fall's later Ballos. Yep, the Golden Age of Mezzos I've mentioned from the blog's very first review is still going.
More surprising were the low-voiced men: Greek bass Christophoros Stamboglis sounded so juicy and rounded as Ferrando that it was easy to overlook his getting tangled up in the rhythms of his initial scene end, and Russian baritone Alexey Markov has completed an impressive transition to the Italian rep with a full, easy, both lyric&strong di Luna... missing only big top notes. Markov is an interesting change from his countryman Hvorostovsky, who premiered the part in this McVicar production: more conventionally handsome and good-sounding and less thoroughly intense/crazy, the current Russian's Count often seems to be wondering why Leonora keeps choosing the odd-looking, hopeless tenor over the nobleman with looks, power, authority, and snappy outfits.
Said odd-looking tenor was Marco Berti, who's improved hugely since being defeated by "Ah si, ben mio" (and everything else delicate) in his first go at the production four seasons back. While still shouting (very) impressively, he's now able to actually sing and phrase (and try to trill!) in delicate bits as well. It's all pretty musical now, but Berti hasn't yet quite gotten to making sense of the small turns and figures in Manrico's music. For loudness plus that feel for the Verdi phrase one will probably have to wait for Yonghoon Lee to sing the part.
Finally, Racette sounded healthy and full-voiced (for her) throughout, but didn't quite deliver interpretive magic on this night's solos. As far ahead on phrase and expression as she anyway is over her predecessor this season Carmen Giannattasio, I wonder if the latter (who was oddly paired with a lighter- and more lyric-voiced tenor) wouldn't have been a better match for the rest of this cast (with Racette better off opposite Jones in the fall). Then the shout-a-thon would have been complete... and/or completely ridiculous.
McVicar's production is still great, and is done justice here. Callegari is still the only conductor this season to provide real forward movement. If you like singing, you'll kick yourself if you miss this run.