There were indications from the outset that the stage direction would provide moments that would leave an indelible impression. When in Act 1 (Scene 2), Leonora sings of her love for Manrico, her companion Inez is lying on a couch in the background, and male hands attached to invisible bodies are seen miming caressing her body - adding an erotic charge to the aria.
What was consistent throughout, on the other hand, was the excellence of the music, under the baton of the energetic Daniel Oren. The first highlight came with the ever-popular "Song of the Anvil," featuring the entire opera company chorus; the two anvils, tuned like musical instruments, were an integral part of the orchestra.
Immediately thereafter, the aria of the gypsy Azucena, played that night by the soprano Marianne Cornetti, elicited the first cheers from the audience. Conductor Oren joined in the enthusiastic applause, tapping his baton on his outstretched other hand in prolonged ovation. He was later to repeat this gesture in praise of tenor Gustavo Porta (in the role of Manrico) and soprano Dinara Alieva (Leonora), in her debut performance with the Israel Opera.
All three of these leading roles - plus those of Inez and Count di Luna - are being rotated among two and even three artists throughout the opera’s run, which extends through January 16.
The choir, under the direction of chorus master Ethan Schmeisser, was in fine form. Some of the show’s finest moments were when the chorus sang offstage, resulting in moving, ethereal sound.
There was one annoying phenomenon: A considerable amount of translated text was missing from the subtitles. It is nice that there are three strategically placed screens, for easy reading from any seat; but there were too many long periods when nothing appeared on those screens - or the same words stayed without changing - even though the Italian lyrics had clearly moved on (and were not simply repeated). The lacunae were not bad enough to take away from the overall understanding of the plot; but if all the words were meant to be heard, then they deserved to be transmitted to the audience.
In all, nevertheless, the Israel Opera’s current production of this classical favorite can only be deemed a great success.
The Israel Opera
19 Shaul Hamelech Boulevard, Tel Aviv
Tel: (03) 692-7777