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Il Trovatore review at Royal Opera House, London – ‘disappointing visuals’

Jennifer Davis and Lianna Haroutounian in Il Trovatore at the Royal Opera House. Photo: Tristram Kenton
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German director David Bosch’s new Royal Opera staging of Verdi’s dark revenge tragedy, Il Trovatore, overlays the original 15th-century Spanish civil-war setting with contemporary visuals. These range from barbed wire to a tank with the name Luna written on it to a chorus of gypsies that looks like a touring variety act to L♥ M carved by lovesick Leonora on a tree trunk to endless butterflies flying distractingly around on videos along with isolated crotchets and quavers from Verdi’s score. The result looks both kitsch and childish.

Bosch provides little in the way of direction. There’s hardly any visible connection between the central characters in this drama of intense rivalries played out across not only personal but also class, racial and political lines.

In the scene where Leonora embarrassingly mistakes Luna for her beloved Manrico, so physically dissimilar are these two brothers ignorant of their relationship that it’s impossible to comprehend her error.
With endless oversized physical gestures and arms constantly outstretched, the general standard of acting looks like a conscious parody of how opera was supposed to look in the bad old days. By the end, you’re past caring who dies or why.

The opera needs better singing, too. Lianna Haroutounian produces lovely, liquid tone but like the rest of the cast she doesn’t possess a real trill. Ekaterina Semenchuk’s gypsy Azucena is on an appropriate scale, but the three parts of her voice don’t add up to a unified instrument. Francesco Meli offers the evening’s most lyrically engaged performance as Manrico, but there’s a worrying beat to his voice that suggests that the role is one size too big for him. Zeljko Lucic supplies big singing but the tone is rough around the edges.

Gianandrea Noseda conducts, giving Verdi’s score some of the compelling dynamism it needs, but not enough to distract from the disappointing visuals.

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Gianandrea Noseda’s conducting possesses insufficient dynamism to salvage a feeble production