Full house swept away by earthy Italian opera from the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra

Gustavo Porta as Manrico and Erika Grimaldi as Leonora performing Verdi’s Il Trovatore for the Opera In Concert event by the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra. Photo / Provided

What: Il Trovatore

Where: Auckland City Hall

When: Saturday

Reviewer: William Dart

By choosing Verdi’s Il Trovatore as the opera in concert this year, the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra ensured that a full town hall would be swept away by this most down to earth Italian opera.

Very early on, Verdi himself realized that his melodramatic tale of revenge and thwarted love offered the opportunity to be “singular and original”, qualities well transmitted by maestro Giordano Bellincampi, effortlessly balancing the orchestral thrills and finesse, while Stuart Maunder’s revealing direction brought the characters to life.

Olesya Petrova as Azucena and Gustavo Porta as Manrico performing Verdi's Il Trovatore for the Opera In Concert event by the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra.  Photo / Provided
Olesya Petrova as Azucena and Gustavo Porta as Manrico performing Verdi’s Il Trovatore for the Opera In Concert event by the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra. Photo / Provided

Pandemic pressures caused the New Zealand Opera Chorus to sing from withheld scores, but their smooth entrances and exits became a stylized dramatic feature, especially as progress accelerated on one of the liveliest marches in Green.

Given the opportunity to sing, however, in Anvil’s famous choir, they were, predictably, impressive.

Ferrando’s chilly assurance of Petri Lindroos in the opening scene suggested more polished vocals might be to come. Within minutes we were meeting Leonora, delightfully played by Erika Grimaldi, describing her love dilemma to Morag Atchinson’s beautifully drawn Ines.

Grimaldi was a supple and elegant heroine, with a voice to match, melting in the grand Miserere and a stunning peak in the spiky sets that close the first two acts.

Simone Piazzola’s Count sounded a cautious mite in both characterization and singing, while Gustavo Porta didn’t invest Manrico with the status of the ultimate romantic hero, too much of his singing tainted with vocal tension.

The gypsy Azucena is the very human core of Il Trovatore; she was Verdi’s favorite character and he almost named the work after her.

Morag Atchinson as Ines, Gustavo Porta as Manrico and Erika Grimaldi as Leonora in Verdi's performance of Il Trovatore.  Photo / Provided
Morag Atchinson as Ines, Gustavo Porta as Manrico and Erika Grimaldi as Leonora in Verdi’s performance of Il Trovatore. Photo / Provided

Olesya Petrova, emerging from the choir and singing mostly from the lower tier of the choir stalls, gave a faultless and finely nuanced performance. Whether she was vengeful or sad, whether she bonded with Manrico or fought back with the Count, she presented Azucena as Everywoman.

Tonight was a shining testimony to the courage and determination of the APO, carrying out with flying colors what must have been a huge challenge in these uncertain times.

About Madeline J. Carter

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