Pittsburgh Opera’s Revival of Verdi Classic Their 1st This Century
By George B. Parous
Starting Saturday evening, March 25, Pittsburgh Opera will present Il Trovatore (The Troubadour), Giuseppe Verdi’s tuneful classic, for the first time in the twenty-first century. The opera has come in and out of “style” for over a hundred years, and a glance over the company’s history shows that previously, it has been staged about twice a decade since the late 1940s. Prior to Pittsburgh Opera, local audiences were treated to the work by the occasional touring company, and local opera lovers/historians can only drool over the cast that the Metropolitan Opera presented at the Nixon Theater on the afternoon of April 29, 1908 – Enrico Caruso (Manrico); Emma Eames (Leonora); Giuseppe Campanari (Count Di Luna), and Shadyside-born contralto Louise Homer as Azucena. Alexandra Loutsion, well known to local audiences, and a Canonsburg native herself, will sing the role of Leonora, the ill-fated, heroic noblewoman.
Ms. Loutsion, as those familiar with her magnificent soprano voice already know, will be an ideal fit for the role. She recently took the time to share some thoughts on the part and the opera, which will mark her return to the Benedum Center since she sang the title role in Florencia en el Amazonas, the last work staged there before the pandemic.
Alexandra Loutsion (by Kristin Hoebermann)
“I’m so happy to be here,” she began. “It feels wonderful. It always feels like coming home when I perform in Pittsburgh, but this time feels even more significant. We’re having a great time with the rehearsals. I know everyone in the cast – we’ve all worked together in some fashion or another, which is always really fun. So it’s like a family reunion. And we have a really cool ‘Three Generation Resident Artist’ situation. I was a member of Pittsburgh Opera’s Resident Artist program, Marianne Cornetti was part of it before me, and now Emily Richter and Daniel O’Hearn are current Resident Artists in the show. It’s cool to see this lineage, and to see how alums always come back.”
“No, I’ve sung it with Central City Opera,” she said, when asked if this will be her debut in the role. “And with Jonathan Burton, who is our Manrico here in Pittsburgh. We did ten performances of it there, at 8,500 feet above sea level, so singing it here ought to be much easier. Leonora is the one ingénue that I play. She’s a lady in waiting to the queen, and she has fallen in love with the rebel Manrico, much to the chagrin of Manrico’s rival the Count di Luna and the royal family. She has dedicated herself to Manrico, and repeatedly sacrifices herself for him. She’s very brave and fiery, and she’s no shrinking violet. The fourth act of the opera is really the ‘Leonora Show’ – she intends to rescue Manrico from prison but doesn’t know exactly how to do it. She goes to the prison with some poison, and that’s as far as she’s planned. She encounters Di Luna and begs for Manrico’s release, he says ‘No’, and in a split-second decision she says, ‘if you let him go, you can have me’, and he says ‘OK, great’. She’s got a heart of gold and a willing spirit to do whatever she can to save her man.
“I have two favorite parts of the opera. Both are in the fourth act, in the ‘Leonora Show’. At the top of the act, I have three arias back-to-back, and the middle aria is accompanied by the male choristers, and all of a sudden, we hear this different vocalism from Leonora than we’ve heard the whole show. It’s a lot lower, and grittier, and I really like that she gets to show that side of herself while she’s terrified and trying to figure out her plan. My other favorite part is her duet with Count di Luna in the fourth act after her three arias, it’s some of the best duet music in all of opera.”
“It’s like seeing a live Game of Thrones,” she said, discussing the opera as an ideal one for first timers. “It’s set in the 1400s Spain, with castles and sword fights, big dresses and all these love triangles and crazy twists and turns. If you’ve ever wanted to see the live stage show of Game of Thrones, come on down to Il Trovatore. The thing you have to look forward to with all opera is unamplified music. Unamplified music is something that in our day and age you don’t get a lot of. If you’ve never experienced an unamplified voice and orchestra in-person before, particularly in a space like the Benedum, it is definitely worth experiencing. It’s a visceral experience. There is something really magical about a room full of thousands of totally silent people listening to the naked human voice.”
“The audience will also be able to tell what’s going on in the story very easily,” she said of the production, in conclusion. “Besides the printed synopsis and supertitles, Verdi does a very good job of illustrating the text in his music. Some audience members tell me that they don’t even read the supertitles because they get it all from the music.”
Along with Ms. Loutsion as Leonora, the cast includes Lester Lynch (Conte di Luna); Jonathan Burton (Manrico); Marianne Cornetti (Azucena); Ashraf Sewailam (Ferrando); Emily Richter (Ines) and Daniel O’Hearn (Ruiz). Antony Walker conducts; Daniel Rigazzi directs.
So, indeed, come on down to Il Trovatore. You can find tickets and more at the Pittsburgh Opera website.
Special thanks to Chris Cox, Director of Marketing and Communications for Pittsburgh Opera