Verisimilitude may be a tad over-rated. Tonight I witnessed a concert performance of Verdi’s Il Trovatore by Toronto’s Opera By Request. It’s habitual to apologize for what’s missing in these virtual renditions, that have music stands instead of sets, and evening attire instead of period costume.
But some operas founder upon encountering realism, like ships aground on a beach. When modern stagecraft shines a spotlight upon a story, we may not like what we see; Trovatore is one of the most blatant examples of this.
At one time Trovatore was Verdi’s most successful opera, if not the most popular opera of all. That the opera has fallen from that exalted status is likely as much an indication of growing sophistication as of changes in audience preferences. It’s an opera assembled out of a series of picturesque moments, packed with melodies and stirring feeling.
I found it very welcome to be sitting in close contact with William Shookhoff’s pianism & the powerful singing of the soloists assembled for the occasion, filling the College St United Church space with passionate music.
Carrie Gray as Leonora sang what was for me the most impressive performance of any soloist performing this season for Opera by Request. Hers is a genuine Verdi soprano, a generous instrument easily filling the space with sound, holding nothing back in the ensembles, powering up to the many high notes in this role, and always rock solid in her intonation.
Karen Bojti met the many challenges of Azucena. She has a gorgeous colour, with smokey low notes, while brazenly taking the stage in the moments of high drama required by the role.
Steven Sherwood gave us a sensitive Manrico, Italianate and lyrical throughout. Yevgeny Yablonovsky’s Count Di Luna was consistent with the usual casting that prevails today, namely for a big dark voice.
Finally, I was again grateful for Shookhoff’s efforts at the piano, impersonating an orchestra, always helping the singers, while using a big sound that matched the big voices we heard today. Well done!
Opera By Request will be back after a brief summer holiday with Donizetti’s L’Elisir d’Amore September 17th at College St United Church.