Youth and experience at Met in Verdi's 'Trovatore'
In this photo Sept. 27, 2012 provided by the Metropolitan Opera, Guanqun Yu performs the role of Lenora and Gwyn Hughes-Jones performs the role of Manrico during a dress rehearsal of Verdi's "Il Trovatore," at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. (AP Photo/Metropolitan Opera, Marty Sohl)
NEW YORK (AP) — Youth and experience both were well-served as the Metropolitan Opera revived Verdi's "Il Trovatore" for the first time this season: A young soprano made a promising debut, and a veteran mezzo twice her age stole the show.
Saturday's matinee featured the Chinese soprano Guanqun Yu as Leonora, a noblewoman in 15th-century Spain who loves a troubadour but is pursued by the implacable Count di Luna. Yu, who trained in Shanghai and was a winner of the 2012 Operalia competition, has a big, well-focused voice with a warm, gleaming top. She deservedly won an enthusiastic ovation for her opening aria "Tacea la notte placida" and the tricky cabaletta which follows. At this early point in her career, she lacks those melting high pianissimos Verdi often calls for, and her lower register is weak, but overall her singing left a favorable impression. Dramatically she was less successful, relying on stock gestures and expressions that never quite created a sense of character.
In this Sept. 27, 2012 photo provided by the Metropolitan Opera, Gwyn Hughes-Jones plays the role of Manrico during a dress rehearsal of Verdi's "Il Trovatore," at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. (AP Photo/Metropolitan Opera, Marty Sohl)
The other leading female role is the gypsy Azucena, who has raised the troubadour, Manrico, as her child — even though he is actually the brother of the Count. (It seems that years earlier, the Count's father had her mother burned as a witch; seeking revenge, Azucena tried to throw the Count's baby brother onto the flames, but in her derangement she mistakenly switched him with her own son.)
Mezzo Dolora Zajick has owned this role at the Met for nearly a quarter-century, performing it more than 40 times since her debut in 1988. On Saturday, she showed that at age 60 she has lost none of the visceral power that makes her portrayal so exciting, especially when she hurls out thunderbolts from her lower chest register or cuts through the orchestra with sizzling high notes. Her Azucena is a wild woman, yet sympathetic at the same time, as she struggles between devotion to Manrico and obsession with avenging her mother's murder.