Metropolitan Opera’s HD-Live-at-the-Met finishes the season with two of the greatest in the repertoire –– Guiseppi Verdi’s Il Trovatore and Richard Wagner’s Die Walküre.
It’s been said that The Anvil Chorus is the most famous opera piece ever written. For that alone, audiences are in for a treat, with David McVicar’s new production of Il Trovatore (The Troubadour), screening at Galaxy Cinemas Saturday, co-produced with Lyric Opera of Chicago and San Francisco Opera.
Set against a wartime background, brothers Manrico (Marcelo Álvarez, singing the title role) and Count di Luna (Dmitri Hvorostovsky) compete for the love of the same woman, Leonora.
In the past a gypsy had bewitched the count’s little brother, making him weak and ill, and for this she’d been burnt alive as a witch. Dying, she commanded her daughter Azucena to avenge her.
Now Manrico’s supposed mother, the witch Azucena, haunts the count’s palace seeking revenge for the baby thrown into the fire.
The fact that the count and Manrico are brothers, and that the former eventually kills the latter to fulfill Azucena’s curse is typical of plots that grand opera relishes.
In setting the piece, McVicar uses rich imagery. On a rotating turntable, massive walls separate indoor and outdoor settings, one of the features that’s made this production so popular with audiences.
The season closes with the highly anticipated Die Walküre (May 14), the second installment of the new production of Richard Wagner’s epic four-part Der Ring des Nibelungen.
It’s a work of extraordinary scale produced by internationally renowned Canadian director, writer, and performer Robert Lepage.
The company’s complex repertory schedule was adjusted to accommodate the project, costing $16-million at a time when the Met was running in the red.
And they also faced an architectural challenge, with new steel girders under the stage to support the 45-ton set.
The Met and its unions also agreed to having an all-Canadian production company build and test the rig in Montreal, then install it in New York.
So, welcome to the marriage of high technology and classic stagecraft. The computer-controlled machine rises and twists as its 24 constituent metal plates form a stage-spanning staircase that rotates around a horizontal axis.
Some steps are nearly vertical, the fractured surface flooding with colour and texture, while the music takes on the rhythm that represents Wagner’s subterranean scene of the crime, setting the whole cycle in motion.
The Ring is based loosely on characters from the Norse sagas and the Nibelungenlied. The Nibelung of the title is the dwarf Alberich who fashions the Ring from the Rhine gold.
Deborah Voigt plays her first Met Brünnhilde, Eva-Maria Westbroek makes her Met debut as Sieglinde, Stephanie Blythe plays Fricka, and Jonas Kaufmann plays Siegmund. Bryn Terfel continues the towering role of Wotan, king of the gods.
Das Rheingold production designers return: Carl Fillion (set); François St.-Aubin (costumes); Étienne Boucher (lighting), and James Levine, now celebrating his 40th year as the Met’s musical director, conducts.
Die Walküre includes the famous Ride of the Valkyries, the best-known piece from the entire Ring cycle.
Verdi’s Il Travatore shows this Saturday, while Die Walküre airs May 14. Both live transmission will screen at Galaxy Cinemas in Vernon at 10. a.m. Tickets are $24.58, with discounts for seniors and children under 14, available at the box office and at www.cineplex.com.
–– Local filmmaker and freelance writer Jim Elderton reviews the Okanagan Symphony season, and other performances, for The Morning Star.