Make us your home page
Instagram

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.

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.

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.

If you go

Il Trovatore: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Palladium Theatre, 253 Fifth Ave. N, St. Petersburg. $22-$67. (727) 822-3590. mypalladium.org.

St. Petersburg Opera season gets off to a good start with Verdi's 'Il Trovatore' 10/15/16 [Last modified: Saturday, October 15, 2016 6:25pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for the week of May 29-June 4

    Events

    Memorial Day: Among the free events paying tribute to fallen soldiers today is the Bay Pines VA Memorial Day Ceremony in St. Petersburg, with speakers including Sen. Bill Nelson and Rep. Charlie Christ, musical performances, a rifle salute and taps. (727) 319-6479 . The Florida National Cemetery …

    Young blonde boy carrying an American Flag over a wooden Bridge.
  2. Fans in Florida and beyond won't forget Gregg Allman

    Music & Concerts

    The end can come quickly for those who live fast and live hard, who create worlds with their talent and sometimes come close to throwing them away.

    This Oct. 13, 2011 file photo shows Gregg Allman performs at the Americana Music Association awards show in Nashville, Tenn. On Saturday, May 27, 2017, a publicist said the musician, the singer for The Allman Brothers Band, has died. (AP Photo/Joe Howell, File)
  3. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for May 28

    Events

    Alabama: The country music all-timers hit the road for the Southern Drawl tour with openers, the Charlie Daniels Band. 7 p.m., Amalie Arena, 401 Channelside Drive, Tampa. $26-$86. (813) 301-2500.

    Handout photo of Alabama, performing 5/28/17 at Amalie Arena in Tampa. Credit: Alan Messer
  4. Find serenity at Grand Cayman Island's Cemetery Beach

    Travel

    GRAND CAYMAN ISLAND

    Hey, cruisers, if you've been to Hell and back, snuggled with the stingrays and taken photos with the turtles at the Cayman Turtle Centre, you might be looking for something different on your next trip. (Guilty!)

    Good snorkeling can be found off shore at Cemetery Beach in Grand Cayman.
  5. Karen Bail, who helped Gibbs kids get to Broadway, retires

    Stage

    ST. PETERSBURG — When neatnicks retire, they leave no trace behind. Their desks are clean, like a runway after the plane has taken off.

    Karen Bail warms up seniors Jonathan O’Brien, left, as Juan Peron and Addam Setzer as Che Guevara before the dress rehearsal of Evita in April.