The L.A. Opera's first production of Verdi's "Il Trovatore" in 29 years is a riveting psychological drama done mostly in black and white, with a few touches of blood red, and a lot of real fire. The sets consist of wall panels that stretch from floor to ceiling to seal off the stage. They are moved around to open panels, doors, and areas of the stage, but they always keep everything close, and sometimes very claustrophobic. When you walk in and sit down, there are swords stuck in the floor all along the front of the stage. There is an opening in the panels, with rain falling and, as the panels start to open we see bodies of soldiers in armor lying around. As the opera starts, the bodies come to life and become Ferrando's soldiers, as he tells the story of the old gypsy who was burned at the stake, the kidnapping and supposed burning of Count di Luna's younger brother by Azucena. Doors open in the bottom of the panels, the gypsies crawl out and begin work at their forges, as a fire shoots up at center stage. Azucena, then tells the story of her mother's execution from her point of view. Everything's dark, with red back lights and the eerie glow of the fire.
Nina Terentieva is a compellingly crazed Azucena with a dark low voice that flows like a molten river from a volcano. There's a gripping poignancy as she sings to the Count of her search for Manrico, and is defiant and resolute in her cell. She is terrified as she sings us a gruesomely graphic description of her mother's execution while she awaits her own trip to the stake. Jorma Hynninen's Count di Luna is all in black with a suitably dark baritone for this character. He's had some bad breaks, such as Leonora's falling in love with Manrico instead of him, but mostly they stem from his own actions. Carol Vaness is a velvet voiced Leonora when she sings to Inez of how she and Manrico met. She's the most approachable of these characters and the only one without an ax to grind. She's also the only one who dresses with any color, other than tinges of blood. We see her in a red gown. She seems vulnerable, but determined in her love for Manrico, and her resistance of the Count. At the end she's defiant and resolute as she holds up the ring with the poison. The panels are closed across the stage presenting a solid wall in front of her. As they open, we see a heap of dead bodies. This time they are really dead. She lifts the head of one soldier, then puts it back down, and goes to meet her own death. The everpresent swords are stuck in the ground. Even in the convent scene the cross hanging from the ceiling is a sword.
 Vladimir Bogachov is a strong Manrico. He's able to pity the Count enough to spare his life when they duel, and he's genuinely devoted to his mother and Leonora, but where her love is soft and warm, his is firey passion. From top to bottom this is an outstanding cast. I'm someone who loves a lavish, traditional production. This one is stark and grim everywhere and becomes something special in that it really works. In this elaborate wasteland director Stephen Lawless and set designer Benoit Dugardyn wring every drop of emotion from this powerful drama. Gabriele Ferro leads the orchestra in this towering new production of Verdi's "Il Trovatore" at The L.A. Opera. Performances continue at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion Wednesday at 7:30 pm and next Saturday's matinee. This and other reviews are on my Website at

San Francisco Ballet

LA Opera

SF Opera

Shakespeare 97
Theater in Ashland

"Channel City"

"Sleeping Beauty"
Royal Ballet

"Swan Lake" 98

"Il Trovatore"

"Eugene Onegin"

"Taking Sides"
SBCC Theater

"Don Pasquale"
SB Opera

Balletto Toscano

"Jerome Robbins"


"Flying Dutchman"

SB Civic Light Opera

"Sweet Charity"
SB Civic Light Opera

"Cinderella" Ballet
Ballet of Cuba

"Swan Lake" 96


"Death In Venice"



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Last Updated Tuesday, May 12, 1998 by Paul Berenson