What is the collective noun for opera critics? A swarm of critics? A plague, maybe? The word “asinine” and “critic” often cross paths, but saying “a stable of critics” invokes Arabian thoroughbreds, which is surely too much honour. A pen of critics might be closer to the mark.
So can a pen of critics ever approach consensus about a performance? Probably not before the residents of the pen learn to fly. Here’s a round-up of what an number of reviewers, professional and amateur, made of Dutch National Opera’s Il Trovatore, which runs until the 1st of November. The main soloists are Francesco Meli (Manrico), Carmen Giannattasio (Leonora), Violeta Urmana (Azucena), Simone Piazzola (Count di Luna), Roberto Tagliavini (Ferrando) and Florieke Beelen (Ines). In particular, the new production by Àlex Ollé, of the highly-regarded theatre collective La Fura dels Baus, provoked diverse reactions, but soloists and conductor also got a variety of grades, from passes to flying colours.
NRC: Staging: Harmless, Singing: Somewhat cool to excellently passionate, Conducting: Lively, sometimes too hurried
De Volkskrant: Staging: Visually arresting, outdated acting, Singing: Ranging from modest to highly attractive, Conducting: Rhythmically tight and catchy
Trouw: Staging: Spectacular set with cheesy acting, Singing: Weak to wonderful, Conducting: Sloppy and lacking in momentum
De Telegraaf: Staging: Suggestive set, weak singers’ direction, Singing: Monotonous to devastatingly good, Conducting: Idiomatic and nuanced
Het Parool: Staging: Distracting and absurd, Singing: Marvellous, Conducting: Very good with minor snafus
Theaterkrant: Staging: Spectacular, Singing: Mostly mediocre, Conducting: Breathtaking
Cultuurpers: Staging: Dismal and emotionally chilly, Singing: Runs the gamut, only Violeta Urmana’s Azucena was moving, Conducting: Messy
Place de l’Opéra: Staging: Incomprehensible, Singing: Mostly very good to terrific, Conducting: Tempi all over the place
Bachtrack: Staging: Visually arresting, but often static, Singing: Soloists deliver the goods, Francesco Meli’s Manrico a triumph, Conducting: Run-of-the-mill
Opera Today (by Yours Truly): Staging: Clever but problematic, Singing: Excellent, Conducting: Disappointing
OperaClick: Staging: Original and impressive, Singing: Outstanding, Conducting: A let-down
We read reviews for entertainment, and possibly enlightenment, but ultimately everyone’s response to a performance is unique and no two live performances are exactly the same. A Trovatore cast that is worth hearing is not easy to come by. If you can get to Amsterdam and believe the reviewers who think DNO has assembled such a cast, go see and hear for yourself.