Tenor Ramón Vargas has built a fantastic reputation during his 30-year career. He's impressed audiences worldwide at the Metropolitan Opera, La Scala and the Vienna State Opera, just to mention a few, and has become one of the most sought after tenors in the world. He draws impressive audiences wherever he goes, and his role debut of Manrico at the COC promises to be no different. To celebrate his talent, here are five videos featuring Vargas at his best, from tormented to tender; tragic to beautiful.
Posted by Danielle D'Ornellas / in 2012/2013 / comments (1) / permalink
By Jon Kaplan, Senior Theatre Writer at NOW magazine.
An infant abducted. A woman burned at the stake. Passionate duels between rival suitors for a gentlewoman’s hand. Several generations of families bent on revenge against each other. The plot for Verdi’s Il Trovatore, premiered in Rome in 1853, is one of his most complicated, with all the details, contrivances and coincidences you might find in a Dickens novel. In the opinion of some, in fact, the opera’s libretto – by Salvatore Cammarano, with revisions by Leone Emanuele Bardare – is one of his most unrealistic.
In brief, the back story deals with the family of the current Conte di Luna, whose younger brother was reportedly bewitched by a gypsy; she was burned at the stake, and her daughter Azucena, in revenge, abducted the brother and supposedly burned him on the site of her mother’s pyre.
As the opera opens, di Luna and the gypsy Manrico, son of Azucena, are not only on opposite sides of battling Spanish forces but also compete for the affection of Leonora, who loves Manrico. Azucena pushes her son to avenge her mother’s immolation, and the continued confrontations between the two men lead to multiple deaths and a few revelations.
Despite criticism of the story, there’s no denying the glory of the music, which includes such operatic favourites as the Anvil Chorus, soprano arias “Tacea la notte placida” and “D’amor sull’ali rosee,” mezzo aria “Stride la vampa,” baritone aria “Il balen” and Verdi’s thrilling tenor showstopper, “Di quella pira.”
Notwithstanding the opera’s popularity, it’s a difficult piece to pull off in performance. In fact, Enrico Caruso, one of history’s best-known Manricos, declared that all that was necessary for a successful performance of Il Trovatore was the four greatest singers in the world.
The Canadian Opera Company’s complement of powerhouse performers includes Elza van den Heever as Leonora, Elena Manistina as Azucena, Russell Braun as the Conte di Luna and, sharing the role of Manrico, Ramón Vargas and Riccardo Massi. The men are all making their role debuts.
The role of Azucena is, arguably, the opera’s linchpin; Manistina sees her as a woman “caught between two opposing feelings; love and revenge. She feels a crazy, all-consuming love for the son she raised, at war with the hatred she feels for the son of di Luna, whose father had her mother killed. She’s been torn by these contrasting feelings for 20 years, since Manrico was a child.”
Manrico is similarly caught between warring emotions: his love for Leonora and his dedication to his mother Azucena, who raised him and saved his life on the battlefield. “He’s an honest, virtuous and loyal person, someone who believes in his principles and decisions,” offers Vargas as he prepares for the part, the latest in a series of Verdi tenor roles that include the Duke in Rigoletto and the title role in Don Carlo.
“The singer has to show not only Manrico’s passion for Leonora,” adds Massi, “but also the strength of his bond with Azucena. At the very moment of his marriage to Leonora, he’s given the devastating choice of either staying with her or rushing away to save his mother. He may be facing impossible odds to rescue the gypsy, but he doesn’t hesitate to try.”
Posted by Danielle D'Ornellas / in 2012/2013 / comments (0) / permalink
Sara Fulgoni in the COC production of Bluebeard's Castle. Photo: Michael Cooper © 2001