The Bavarian State Opera performance of Il Trovatore yesterday night was perhaps the most traditional production I have seen there to date. Zubin Mehta conducted quite well. Luca Ronconi's staging was conservative, it appears to be the only opera she has staged here. My only complaint was the gratuitous use of a scrim to separate Manrico from Leonora in Act III Scene 2, when they are supposedly in a room of the Castellor castle, which is under siege. This tired device has no purpose, there is no reason to have the characters in different spaces and have them sing touching hands against the scrim. The rest of the choreography was natural, no unnecessary collapses, no singing in strange positions, no undressing. The capture of Azucena in Act III, Scene 1 was especially passionate and chilling.
Margherita Palli's sets involved a series of large square pillars. The sets, one imagines, were a challenge, since there are 8 scenes. Instead of using some sort of device or ploy to move the sets around during the action, the scrim or the curtain was simply brought down after each scene. It would take several minutes for the set to change, and they brought the lights up in the hall each time. I have mixed feelings on this point, the long set changes broke the flow, but I appreciate the simplicity of this solution to set change. Gabriella Pescucci's costumes were not elaborate as far as the Spaniards were concerned, though the gypsies had colorful accouterments, which had more of a Middle-Eastern feel than what one typically associates with the Roma.
All together, the singing was of good quality. Alexandru Agache made a fine Conte di Luna, the baritone has a strong voice, and his singing in Act II Scene 2 with Maurizio Muraro (Ferrando) and the chorus of nuns was especially sublime. Mezzo-soprano Elisbetta Fiorillo had a somewhat gritty voice suited for Azucena, though at points she sang with celestial sweetness. Her struggle in Act III Scene 1 was, as I mentioned earlier, exceptionally good and not in the least artificial.
The lead soprano, Fiorenza Cedolins (Leonora), sang admirably, though with a great deal of vibrato, which seemed to overwhelm her at times. Tenor Dennis O'Neill was excellent as Manrico, the troubadour himself. Clear and sweet, his voice contrasted with Fiorillo's nicely.
The audience seemed to like I Puritani more than Il Trovatore, but preferred the latter to Così fan Tutte. Odd, considering the cast for Così was the most consistent, and in my estimation, the one for Puritani was the least, as Gruberova had far and away the best voice. All of these operas are short, in Italian, have complicated plots, and familiar music, though the music to Il Trovatore is likely the best known by laypersons.