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VERDI – Il trovatore
Opera Holland Park
12 June 2008

Leonora – Katarina Jovanovic
Manrico – Rafael Rojas
Azucena – Anne Mason
Conte di Luna – Stephen Gadd
Ferrando – Geoffrey Moses
Ines – Stephanie Corley

Conductor – Brad Cohen
Director / Designer – John Lloyd Davies
Choreographer – Mandy Demetriou
Lighting – Colin Grenfell

OHP has a hugely loyal audience and they like their opera to be full blooded.  Last night they turned out to enjoy one of Verdi’s most heart-stirring scores accoutred not in their usual peacock hued finery, but stoically with winter coats, scarves, hats and even gloves – and they went home fired up with enthusiasm.

The performance did not have an easy victory.  John Lloyd Davies, had opted for an enigmatic scarlet set with walls adorned by an endless Latin quotation, a movable quantity of barbed wire and WW1 military fortifications, and a central neon-lit totem.  His costumes gave the impression of having been pulled out of a family “dressing up” trunk – 20th century military uniforms for the Count and his followers, Ines was fitted out as an Edwardian parlour-maid, there was an unflattering period ball gown for Leonora and an almost laughable 19th century version of Batman’s cloak and mask for Manrico.   His direction looked stultified, and whilst it achieved little in elucidating the plot, it did at least allow the principals to stand and deliver their big arias straight to the audience.

And this is certainly an opera in which the singers deserve all the help that they can get; Verdi wrote it for four of the greatest voices of his time and matching these standards within a modern budget is a severe test for any casting director. 

Anne Mason as an outstanding Azucena was the clear winner.  Her voice is totally secure throughout the register and she gave a chilling and impassioned account of the vengeful gypsy.   Stephen Gadd’s Conte di Luna also impressed both with the intelligent use of his voice and well projected character.   Neither Rafael Rojos (Manrico) nor Katerina Jovanovic (Leonora) were vocally as well equipped, but their  commitment was unreserved.  Arguably a little more restraint might have resulted in greater finesse, but they gave it their heart and soul and the audience loved it.

There were notable performances from the veteran Geoffrey Moses as Ferrando and Stephanie Corley making an auspicious debut as Ines.   The chorus, in turn gypsies and soldiers, have two of Verdi’s most resounding tunes, and when they were not singing at full strength on the stage, they were equally busy behind the scenes changing costumes and props.   The orchestra played magnificently throughout and the evening was an overall triumph.

Serena Fenwick

Pictured Anne Mason & Rafael Rojos Photo credit Fritz Curzon