Hot on the tail of La Traviata comes another Guiseppe Verdi stalwart of the Opera Australia repertoire, Il Trovatore. Both productions are visually stunning, but, where La Traviata’s is a nod to tradition, with period costumes and constructed, three dimensional sets, Il Trovatore fully embraces innovation, employing digital technology, special effects, and circus. Notwithstanding, OA’s latest re-imagining Il Trovatore remains true to the artform, with outstanding vocal performances and earnest storytelling.
Verdi wades into some very dark territory in this opera. The gist of the story is that, many years prior to when the action takes place, a gypsy woman, presumed to be a witch, was burned at the stake while her grown daughter, Azucena (Elena Gabouri) looked on.
Seeking vengeance against the Count di Luna who ordered the execution, Azucena snatched one of his two sons. In haste, she threw the young boy into the fire to burn beside her mother, only to realise she had mistakenly thrown in her own son. She raises the count’s son, Manrico (Yonghoon Lee) as her own.
Manrico is now grown and has fallen in love with a noble woman, Leonora (Leah Crocetto) who returns his affection. The other son, who has replaced his father as the Count di Luna (Maxim Aniskin) is a rival for Leonora’s love. It all gets complicated and messy.
The stage and production design comes care of Italian firm, Giò Forma, who are specialised in large scale events and architecture. If you’ve ever seen building projections such as those during Vivid, then you’ll have some idea of the style of digital imagery used here.
The images are projected onto several hanging panels that move to different positions around the stage, and onto the back wall. Sometimes they imitate a setting, for instance, a gaol cell, a war-ravaged landscape, a deserted amusement park. Sometimes they are thematic and abstract: auspicious tarot cards; grotesque occult-influenced graphics; animated steampunk figures.
There is a lot of activity on stage: a revolving floor, smoke effect, lighting and the projections which often change the setting of a scene several times without logical reason.
And, if that’s not enough, the ensemble includes a troupe of real-life acrobats and circus performers who give a fresh take on the opera’s best known tune, “The Anvil Chorus”. They leap, balance, juggle and eat fire throughout.
This is definitely a feast for ears and eyes. The projections do sometimes feel intrusive but not enough to mar the overall production which is spectacular.
Until July 30, Sydney Opera House, Bennelong Pt; $79 – $369 + bf; Tickets and info: