Il trovatore

The flu has been hitting Sydney.

I have mentioned earlier the short-measure performance of Company.  On Thursday, I received a call at about 3pm to tell me that that evening’s performance of Die Entführung aus dem Serail (to which I had a ticket) had been cancelled.  So I knew what was coming when a fellow jumped up on the stage with a microphone just before Il Trovatore started on Saturday night.

Michael Lewis, who was to play the Conte di Luna (the baritone and baddie brother) was indisposed; Barry Ryan, his understudy, was also stricken.  Opera Australia was pleased to announce a “two for one:” a director’s assistant would walk through the part “in his opera debut,” whilst Jonathan Summers, in Australia for the upcoming production of Il Trittico, and who had last sung the role in 1983, would sing the part from the side of the stage.

I’ve seen this singing-from the-side-of-the-stage solution before, but this was the least-dramatically convincing version of it.  Usually it is coupled with a singer who mimes and acts the part; the director’s assistant did not know the words or the music, and (wisely, I think) confined himself to jutting out his chin in an assertive way and casting the odd expressive glance.  From time to time heard I Elke Neidhart, the director, whispering (in a shouting kind of way) from the wings the odd direction, though mostly not so audibly as to be distinct (just one: “Kneel!”). 

It says something for the power of the work that, by the end, I’d adjusted to this device.  I also think that Summers (who was no inadequate substitute in vocal terms), warmed to his task from the side of the stage: what is often overlooked in opera is how important the acting through the singing is, and by the second act you could feel him getting more into that side of things and becoming involved in the action from his peculiar vantage point.

This production updates the story to civil-war Spain (that’s the most recent civil war).  Manrico (the troubador, tenor and goodie) is on the Republican side; the Conte di Luna is a Nationalist. 

The Act III scene i chorus saw some new recruits changing out of their civvies (facing upstage) and being given a quick medical before donning their uniforms.  This entailed full dorsal nudity (I hesitate to say rectal nudity despite our position in the front row).  Fortified by interval drinks and perhaps a little restive at the dramatic Verfremdung of the stand-in device, the audience responded rowdily with some applause (for chorus-member Jin Tea Kim who engaged in some dramatic press-ups) and a slow clap for the strippers.  I saw this production in Perth a few years ago, and I don’t think that would have ever happened there.  Before he slipped his boxer shorts on, the front stripper gave a few cheeky buttock clenches in acknowledgement.  You had to be near the front to catch that!

The gentleman making the pre-show announcement on Saturday said that he had already done the same for the Saturday matinee of Die Entführung. I now have a ticket for Wednesday’s performance of that. I guess I am taking a risk, but it is the only night I can get to it.

One Response to “Il trovatore

  1. Opera Australia 2013 « Stumbling on melons Says:

    […] Trovatore – the dorsal nudity production – can Jin Tea Kim repeat his pushups?  He’s not getting any […]

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