Advertisement
  1. Stage

St. Petersburg Opera season gets off to a good start with Verdi's 'Il Trovatore'

Cast members of the St. Petersburg Opera's production of Il Trovatore include (from left) Christopher Clayton as Count di Luna, Claudia Chapa as Azucena, Alexandra Batsios as Leonora, and Michael Morrow as Manrico. Courtesy of the St. Petersburg Opera Company.
Published Oct. 15, 2016

ST. PETERSBURG — Il Trovatore opens with foreboding and menace as a Spanish military officer lays the groundwork for revenge. Musically and in tone, the table is set: This will be dark.

The opera by Giuseppe Verdi premiered in Rome in 1853, sandwiched between Rigoletto and La Traviata, and is considered one of the composer's best works. Verdi had been impressed by Garcia Guitierrez's 1836 play, El trovador (The Troubadour), and persuaded Salvadore Cammarano to write the libretto.

Much of the action in the complex plot happens offstage, including a gruesome tale of infanticide narrated by the captain, Ferrando, in the opening scene. Friday, St. Petersburg Opera bass-baritone Kwang Kyu Lee threw down the gauntlet in his call for revenge (the baby was believed to be the brother of Count di Luna, the troops' commander), with mellifluous gravitas.

This production is a faithful rendering of great music, with principals who have been cast well and some strong supporting performances. True to the ominous score, whatever befalls the leading couple has less to do with them than a suffocating fate, the legacy of past atrocities. Manrico, the leader of the rebel forces, and Leonora met before the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War.

He is also the infant thought to be cast in a fire, though neither he nor the count — his brother — know that. (If you've seen it a million times, you know. If you haven't, I'd recommend reading a synopsis first.)

As Leonora, Alexandria Batsios performed like the production pillar she had to be. The soprano handled arias with great articulation, such as her chilling lament when she believes Manrico has died. As Manrico, Michael Morrow, a powerful tenor, displayed unparalleled vocal attack in the opera's most critical scenes. Overall, his portrayal of the romantic lead was solid and precise, if also a bit colorless.

Baritone Christopher Clayton shone as Count di Luna, whose unrequited love for Leonora also sets him at odds with Manrico. Clayton has interpretive skills to go with an expansive baritone, and a duet with Leonora was one of the show's highlights.

Mezzo-soprano Claudia Chapa delivered one of the opera's strongest performances as Azucena, who burned that baby decades earlier to avenge her gypsy mother's execution at the stake. Chapa owns a lovely and richly deep voice, and endowed the role of Azucena with a wild abundance.

Other supporting singers acquitted themselves handily, including Kathleen Farrar Buccleugh, as Ines, giving delicately phrased warnings about the mysterious troubadour (who turns out to be Manrico) to her friend Leonora.

As with all of the company's productions at the Palladium, which has no pit, it's up to maestro Mark Sforzini and other creative staff to figure out where to place the orchestra. Musicians tucked beneath a staircase upstage reach the audience through a dark gauzy screen. It works as well as anything else on a set by Steven Mitchell that must serve as various locations within a palace, a gypsy's camp and a convent.

While the cloth barrier might slightly dull the output of a 32-piece orchestra, it's also kind of a treat to see how the opera handles such challenges from show to show. We see mostly the lights of their music stands, as if looking onto a valley from a hillside.

Contact Andrew Meacham at ameacham@tampabay.com or (727) 892-2248. Follow @torch437.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Randy Rainbow will perform at the Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg on Saturday. Courtesy of Varela Media
    Plus, St. Petersburg Opera’s ‘Merry Widow’ and more.
  2. The cast of American Stage's production of "Vietgone" includes Sami Ma as Tong and Jeff Kim as Quang. Courtesy of Joey Clay Studio
    An immigrant story with voice offers a fresh perspective.
  3. On Saturday, J.B. Smoove will perform at Ferguson Hall, part of Tampa's Straz Center. RICHARD SHOTWELL  |  Invision/AP
    The comedian known for portraying Leon Black on ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ likes to wing it. He hits the Straz Center’s Ferguson Hall on Saturday.
  4. The cast performs 'On The Deck Of A Spanish Sailing Ship, 1492' in the Stage West production of 'Songs for a New World', which will be presented Oct. 17-27. Pictured at top, from left: Paris Seaver, Anthony Agnelli and Nicki Poulis. Standing in front: Jay Garcia. Timothy Rooney
    See ‘Songs for a New World’ and other shows in the north Suncoast
  5. Wayne Brady will perform at the Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg on Sunday. Courtesy of Mahaffey Theater
    There’s Jeanne Robertson and an inventive Florida Orchestra collaboration, too.
  6. Emilee Dupre and Eric Davis star in Freefall Theatre's production of "The Turn of the Screw." Courtesy of Thee Photo Ninja
    A spooky, risk-filled performance will leave you with questions. | Review
  7. "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" will roll through Tampa as part of the Straz Center's 2019-20 Broadway series. JOAN MARCUS  |  Straz Center
    ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,’ Roy Wood Jr., ‘Vietgone’ at American Stage, Piff the Magic Dragon and more.
  8. Music director Michael Francis leads the Florida Orchestra in the Star-Spangled Banner on Friday during the season-opening program at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa. JAY CRIDLIN  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Friday’s opening night portrayed Tampa as a melting pot, delivering diverse pieces pulled from around the world. | Concert review
  9. Bernadette Peters is pictured at Radio City Music Hall in New York in 2015. CHARLES SYKES  |  AP
    Peters follows the likes of Sting and Seal playing with the orchestra.
  10. Aldo Lopez-Gavilan, shown performing "Rhapsody in Blue" with the Florida Orchestra at St. Petersburg's Mahaffey Theater in January, will join the orchestra for its 2019-20 season-opening program this weekend. J.M. LENNON  |  Lennon Media
    Plus, SuicideGirls at Tampa Theatre and comedian Bryan Callen at Tampa Improv.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement