Photo by Brett Coomer Il Trovatore is filled with all kinds of passions
The singers at Houston Grand Opera, after a bumpy Act I of Giuseppe Verdi's blood-and-guts melodrama Il Trovatore (The Troubadour, 1853), must have gotten their vitamin-B shots during intermission, for they all returned and delivered a thoroughly thrilling conclusion. (I exclude the dramatic Verdian mezzo Dolora Zajick, as crazy gypsy mom Azucena, who can sing this role in her sleep. She is her own force of nature, like Vesuvius or Mt. Etna, and needs no added stimulus whatever to deliver a full-blooded characterization. She is one of the wonders of the operatic world, and any chance to hear and see her is a blessing and cause for celebration.)
Verdi's classic, composed immediately after Rigoletto and before La Traviata, floods the stage with juicy, almost overripe, passion. Neither subtle nor stately, this is one of opera's most elemental works. Everything is in capital letters. Its themes are Love, Lust, Revenge, Torture, Superstition, War, Mother Love, Xenophobia. You may not be familiar with the arias' titles, but you know almost all of Trovatore's show-stopping melodies, as they've been overused in commercials, cartoons, or gloriously satirized by the Marx Brothers in A Night At the Opera. The "Anvil Chorus" anyone?