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.
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
Chor des Theaters St.Gallen
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.
(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.