Poor TROVATORE in St.Gallen

Il Trovatore Il trovatore, opera in four acts by Giuseppe Verdi, on a libretto by Salvatore Cammarano, based on the play El Trovador by Antonio García Gutiérrez. The first performance took place on 19 January 1853, in the Teatro Apollo in Rome. Attended open-air performance: Theater St. Gallen, Klosterhof, 2 July 2019.
Il Conte di Luna: Alfredo Daza / Nikola Mijailovic
Leonora: *Hulkar Sabirova / Katia Pellegrino
Azucena: *Okka von der Damerau / Nora Sourouzian
Manrico: *Timothy Richards / Kamen Chanev
Ferrando: *Tijl Faveyts / Martin Summer
Ruiz: Riccardo Botta / Nik Kevin Koch
Ines: Gergana Geleva
Un vecchio zingaro: Andrzej Hutnik
Un messo: Ovidiu Cozma
La Morte: Valérie Junker

Musikalische Leitung: Michael Balke
Sinfonieorchester St.Gallen
Chor des Theaters St.Gallen
Opernchor St.Gallen
Theaterchor Winterthur
Prager Philharmonischer Chor
Inszenierung: Aron Stiehl


For the 14th St. Galler Festspiele the local Stadttheater once more presented an open air opera production in the Klosterhof in front of the impressive baroque cathedral of that charming city in eastern Switzerland. Differently from previous years, when rather rarely performed opera titles dominated the programme, this time the management decided to present its audience an evergreen of the opera repertory: Giuseppe Verdi´s Il Trovatore. When one climbs on the huge rostrum that has been constructed in the abbey`s courtyard, one immediately wonders: Where the heck has the orchestra gone? The answer is quite sobering: It is set in a building somewhere nearby, while the music is transmitted to the performance via loudspeakers. Only the conductor is visible on several little screens for the singers.

Orchestra sound poor

Thus, the feeling of sitting in a live, real opera performance is immediately killed. But if that’s not enough: The quality of that orchestra sound is very poor, Verdi`s incredibly music sounds under the fast beaton of Michael Balke somewhat wishy-washy – it is totally impossible for a reviewer to judge his conducting under these circumstances. The singers, of course, wear microphones, that distort their voices in a way, that made some of the finest opera music ever written sound shrill and unpleasant. Such a pity – because what I could hear from the singers would have sounded very promising without the amplification.

Excellent singers & that damn microphone

Singers and orchestra differed for almost the whole evening for several beats. *Timothy Richards in the title role of Manrico has a powerful, yet sensitive timbered tenor capable to sing the soft aria “Ah si ben mio” as well as the following murderous stretta “Di quella pira”. *Hulka Sabirova’s dark soprano in the role of Leonora is full of passion, her great scene and aria in act four could have really moved, if there were no microphone. The same problem applied for *Okka von der Damerau with her full, but controlled mezzosopran. The reinforcement took all effects of her famous aria “Stride la vampa”, while *Alfredo Daza`s strong and elegant used baritone managed to cope at least in some way with the immature sound system.

Waving with guns

Ah yes, there was also a production. Set designer Frank Philipp Schlössmann designed a huge death angel overlooking a huge military cemetery with hundreds of crosses, as we know them from World War I and II. That looks quite impressive, but there is obviously no connection to Giuseppe Verdi´s and Salvatore Cammerano`s work. There is no room in this staging for the unconditional love, blind hate, racisme and inner strife the four main characters of this opera go through. Instead much energy has been spent to turn the role of the old soldier Ferrando (inconspicuously sung by *Tijl Faveyds in a kind of game master, who influences the story. Why? Because! Director Aron Stiehl only arranged the appearances of the soloists and chorus in the shrill light design of Franck Evin. Any signs Personenregie or interaction? Besides waving with guns not one sign! Needless to say that the costumes by Mechthild Seipel where not much attractive and used World War II uniforms for the soldiers and did not emphasize at all the characters or functions of the protagonists. The fact that Verdi`s opera has been set in the Spanish Civil War of the early 15th century when different parties fought for the Crown of Aragon has of course been ignored once again. Even though the score was massively shortened one had the feeling to leave the opera after an eternity. This Trovatore is mainly an open air happening, but if one expects a serious opera performance one will be very upset. Therefore the applause for this performance ended quickly.

Marco Ziegler
(published on 4 July 2019)


Next performances: Friday, 5 July 2019, 8.30 p.m., Saturday, 6 July 2019, 8.30 p.m., Wednesday, 10 July 2019, 8.30 p.m.,
Friday, 12 July 2019, 8.30 p.m.


  1. John Ennen schreef:

    Yes, for the advanced opera buff, outdoor opera is often problematic. We can read about it once more in this excellent review – very informative. Luckily, the singers were good.

  2. Georg Müller schreef:

    Thank you for this review. I do not understand these dislocations of the directors at all. Trovatore is a beautiful opera. the characters are so full of life. you do not need a compulsory modernization

  3. Sven Müller schreef:

    If you go to an open-air opera performance you might expect microphones. Just like in many open-air festivals. And the sound system is one of the best on the market. This article is like somebody ordering a seafood pizza and complaining that it tastes of fish.
    What a disgrace.

  4. Olivier Keegel schreef:

    If you go to any opera, open-air or not, you don’t expect the orchestra to be playing a few blocks away and its sound coming solely from loudspeakers. It’s like ordering a pizza in a restaurant and being served a cold supermarkt pizza to be heated up at home. “What a disgrace.” 😁

  5. Sven Müller schreef:

    Dear Mr. Keegel,
    this sounds more like a personal vendetta against St. Gallen than an objective critique.

    The orchestra is not a few blocks away as you say, but in a weather-proof box close by. Just like in Bregenz and other festivals. The sound quality has been hailed by visitors and critiques alike. Of course it is not the same acoustic as in a theatre, but that goes without saying.

    “Singers and orchestra differed for almost the whole evening for several beats…” — not true. There are recordings of every evening that show the contrary and that you might want to listen to before letting your colleague write things like that.

    “Even though the score was massively shortened…” — not true. 4 short traditional cuts.

    You can like or dislike anything. That’s the job of a good critique. But please don’t publish things that are simply wrong. This has nothing to do with opinion, but with the honesty that a good journalist should have.

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