Review: Il Trovatore (Canadian Opera Company)

Passions rage in the COC’s latest opera production at Toronto’s Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts

The week Toronto both proposed reinventing itself and questioned its stature as a world-class metropolis, I was up on the third ring of Diamond and Schmitt’s still awe-inspiring Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, taking in Il Trovatore.

Add to the above the fact that my companion for the night was my decked-out, opera-loving youngest daughter. In any case, our evening ended up being as much about the arts and culture experience as it was about Il Trovatore  specifically.

I grew up with opera. I’ve been to the Four Seasons Centre many times. But somehow this specific night I was momentarily aware that being inside was like being in a cocoon. The vengeful, vocal magnificence of Giuseppe Verdi’s 159-year-old masterpiece floated from the stage to our seats. Everything of insignificance was gone.

The Il Trovatore story is about as extreme as operas get. A gypsy is burned at the stake, her daughter throws her mother’s aggressor’s child into the flames in revenge – only to find out she’s killed her own son. That leads to more revenge, mistaken identities, and a quintessential love triangle.

The first act moved quickly, with soaring arias, a great choral scene complete with anvils, and a plot that hastened time. “That seemed like 10 minutes,” commented my daughter as the curtain went down.

During intermission, still pondering the cultural significance of the city we live in, we ended up in the boutique, flipping through a book about the Paris Opera.

“I’ve been there,” I said. “We sat way up with the gods; eye-to-eye with Chagall’s ceiling.” That was long before Toronto had its own opera house. Long before we had really landed on the cultural map.

Surveying the audience, I thought about what inspires us to attend certain arts events. Who turns us on to Saturday Afternoon at the Opera?

My daughter scanned the program looking for names she might recognize from her last visit. I thought of her grandparents. This article could easily have been an homage to love.

The second half of Il Trovatore is dark in storyline and, in this COC version, also in design. Identities are revealed, love is threatened and vengeance is wrought.

But there was none of the action we’ve become accustomed to in opera productions. I ached for a radical director to take a line like “Woman, look me in the eye,” and project a giant eye orb on the back of stage. Do something to kick us to attention. Get the singers to move.

Maybe we’ve become spoiled that way – we want so much more than just, well, opera. So in that respect, this production works for those who are in it for the long haul. For neophytes ready to dip in a toe, this opera might not be the place to begin.


Il Trovatore is playing at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts (145 Queen W.) till  Oct 31, 2012.
– Performances run at varied times, please schedule online.

– Tickets are $12-$325

– Tickets can be purchased online, by phone (416-363-8231), or at the box office.


Photo: Michael Cooper