[Met Performance] CID:290620
Il Trovatore {495} Metropolitan Opera House: 11/21/1987.


Metropolitan Opera House
November 21, 1987

Giuseppe Verdi--Salvatore Cammarano

Manrico.................Luciano Pavarotti
Leonora.................Joan Sutherland
Count Di Luna...........Leo Nucci
Azucena.................Livia Budai
Ferrando................Franco De Grandis
Ines....................Jean Kraft
Ruiz....................Mark (W.) Baker
Messenger...............Stephen O'Mara
Gypsy...................Ray Morrison

Conductor...............Richard Bonynge

Review of Martin Mayer in Opera (UK)

Man and boy, in standing room and the Family Circle at 39th Street and in the luxury of critics' seats at Lincoln Center, I have been going to the Metropolitan Opera for 46 years. "Il Trovatore" on November 21 was the worst single performance of anything I have ever heard this company give. In a very long 200 minutes, there were only about two - the second half of Pavarotti's "Ah! si, ben mio" - when I did not wish I was elsewhere. Like Azucena, I seek revenge. To be fair: Pavarotti was workmanlike throughout, though the only moment I felt any passion was his "Quale orror!" as Livia Budai finished her aria about burning the baby, and Leo Nucci as the Count di Luna did, I think, just exactly as he was told. Perhaps one can spare a nice word, too, for Mark Baker in the almost invisible comprimario role of Ruiz.

The rest were unforgivable. Why Budai was recruited to New York I cannot imagine: she hooted inexpressively and unmusically from several separate registers. Joan Sutherland simply ought not to have been attempting this role on this stage at this time of life. Everyone I know who knows her likes Dame Joan; one of her friends must tell her that the time comes when an artist whose stock-in-trade has been voice rather than musicianship or expression or dramatic force must hang it up. At best there were a few phrases in the penultimate scene that were not actually unpleasant to hear. Otherwise it is cruel, but true, to say that if your neighbour sang as Sutherland sang on November 21, you would ask the janitor to tell her to stop.

Richard Bonynge conducted with a kind of bored if gentlemanly malice against Verdi, forbidding the singers to make Italianate phrases (Pavarotti is reported to have walked out from several rehearsals). Fabrizio Melano's production presented the piece as an oratorio in costume, and Ezio Frigerio gave us a permanent set of three flights of five steps each, plus six Styrofoam columns with reflecting gun-metal paint that flew and were moved around on the steps, presumably to suggest the different scenes. There were also projections on the cyclorama behind, including one of a volcano in eruption which, in context, was what was frying Manrico's mother, leaving his charge to the rescue more than a little quixotic. The house is left with a hopeless production of one of the permanently popular operas, even worse than the awful Aida now withdrawn. James Levine, who is listed in the programme as artistic director, seems to have arranged matters so that he was not in New York City on any day or night when this crew was presenting this opera. Wise.

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