Tuesday October 17, 2012 - There's something seriously wrong when the best singing in a performance of IL TROVATORE comes from the basso in the secondary (but vital) role of Ferrando. At The Met tonight, Morris Robinson (above) delivered his music with total authority, the voice large and even; he was verbally astute and invested his monolog with dramatic nuances while maintaining his musicality.
The great Dolora Zajick, announced as ill but 'graciously consenting' to sing for us anyway, gave her best under the circumstances, and she was exciting. The voice, after some 30 years of unsparing use in opera's most demanding roles - always sung full-throttle - is only slightly diminished in heft and still has both a secure top and a cavernous chest register. Her sense of vocal commitment and dramatic urgency maintained their focus in a wayward evening.
Beyond that we had a soprano with a modestly attractive timbe singing a role one size too big for her in the big house, a vocal instance of sending a boy to do a man's job as Manrico, and a handsome baritone with a steady beat to his tone.
The conductor set brisk tempi, perhaps hoping to get thru the evening as soon as possible. He also opened some cuts: unnecessary when the singers are of this calibre. We left at the point where Manrico rushed off to prevent Leonora's taking of the veil, and perhaps things improved later in the evening, but we weren't banking on it. As we emerged onto the Plaza, it seemed other people had the same idea, which meant that the second half of the evening played to an even smaller audience than the frst half: there were a shocking number of empty seats. It was the smallest Met audience I have seen since the weeks immediately following 9/11.
It's a strange and unsettling time to be an opera-lover in New York City and to watch The Met floundering both artistically and financially. The illusion that all is well at The House seems increasingly to be just that: an illusion.