The Metropolitan Opera's new production of Verdi's often-maligned opera does full justice to its marvelous music.
Indeed, this new version, conducted at its premiere by Gianandrea Noseda, hits the mark on just about every aria, but never more than with the ultra-hummable "Anvil Chorus," during which shirtless and brawny men strike those anvils in ringing delight.
Fortunately, Trovatore's music distinguishes a credulity-straining story that may have resonated with mid-19th-century aficionados, but nowadays falls just this side of ludicrous. Set against wartime shenanigans -- which McVicar has decided will be the "Peninsular War" of 1808 -- brothers Count di Luna (Dmitri Hvorostovsky) and Manrico (Marcelo Alvarez) vie for the love of the same woman, Leonora (Sondra Radvanovsky). Meanwhile Manrico's supposed mother, the witch Azucena (Dolora Zajick) skulks around the Count's operations base seeking revenge for a baby (accidentally?) thrown into a fire.
That the Count and Manrico are brothers and that the former eventually does in the latter to fulfill Azucena's curse is something opera followers let slide -- although given Hvorostovsky's fair coloring and Alvarez's brooding dark looks in this version, the pair's blood tie certainly remains obscure.
In placing the opera when he has, McVicar avails himself of Francisco Goya imagery that's most prominent in a show curtain advertising a detail from the Spanish master's 1821 "Pilgrimage to San Isidro." The mammoth billboard alone may account for Met regulars preferring the new production to the one it replaces from 1988. Whether it's a vast improvement -- with its turntable rotating massive walls that delineate indoor and outdoor settings -- isn't a sure thing.