San Francisco Opera opens new season with Verdi’s ‘Il trovatore’

Verdi’s ‘Il trovatore’ with Ekaterina Semenchuk as Azucena and members of the San Francisco Opera Chorus © Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

Eun Sun Kim, Music Director of San Francisco Opera, continues her Verdi cycle, as the Company stages Sir David McVicar’s production of Il trovatore. This story of passion, drama and revenge stars soprano Angel Blue as Leonora, tenor Arturo Chacón Cruz as Manrico, the troubadour of the title. Baritone George Petean takes the role of Count di Luna, who is obsessed by Leonora. The mysterious gypsy Azucena is sung by mezzo-soprano Ekaterina Semenchuk, and Ferrando, captain of the troops, is bass Robert Pomakov.

Robert Pomakov as Ferrando with members of the San Francisco Opera Chorus in
Verdi’s ‘Il trovatore’ © Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

An opera in four acts, Il trovatore was composed by Giuseppe Verdi between 1851 and 1853, with a libretto largely written by Salvadore Cammarano. It was based on the 1836 play El toreador by Antonio García Gutiérrez, but Cammarano died before completing the libretto, and Italian poet Leone Emanuele Bardare, a friend and collaborator of his, completed the text. The opera premiered at the Teatro Apollo in Rome on January 19th in 1853.

The original setting of the opera was Aragon and Biscay (now Vizcaya) in 1409, during the Spanish civil war. David McVicar has moved the action to 1808 and set it against the backdrop of the Spanish War of Independence against Napoleon, taking inspiration for his designs from Francisco Goya’s 82 prints, Desastres de la Guerra.

Angel Blue as Leonora and Arturo Chacón-Cruz as Manrico in Verdi’s ‘Il trovatore’
© Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

Il trovatore tells of Leonora, a young noblewoman in the queen’s service, who is in love with Manrico, a troubadour who serenades her every evening. Count di Luna, however is obsessed by her. He has also sworn to avenge what he believes to be the death of his infant brother at the hands of a gypsy woman, Azucena. Manrico has been brought up to believe that the gypsy is his mother, but he isn’t aware that Azucena accidentally killed her own child, kidnapped Manrico and brought him up as her own – and he is actually the brother of the Count. The actions of Azucena all those years ago affect each of the main characters in the story, and lead to a train of events which end in tragedy.

Angel Blue as Leonora in Verdi’s ‘Il trovatore’
© Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

Grammy Award-winning Angel Blue was also the recipient of the 2020 Beverly Sills Award and the winner of the 2022 Richard Tucker Award. She earned international acclaim in the role of Mimí in Puccini’s La bohème in her house debuts at the Palau de Les Arts in Valencia, Vienna State Opera, Canadian Opera Company, Semperoper Dresden, Hamburg State Opera and Metropolitan Opera. Future highlights of Angel Blue’s current season include a performance at Vienna State Opera of the title role in Puccini’s Tosca – following a recent performance of which Seen and Heard International wrote: “Angel Blue soars as the divine Tosca in Los Angeles” – in Beethoven’s 9th Symphony with Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony, a soloist in the Celebrating Maria Callas Concert at Carnegie Hall and as Micaela in Bizet’s Carmen at the Metropolitan Opera.

Arturo Chacón-Cruz as Manrico with members of the San Francisco Opera Chorus in
Verdi’s ‘Il trovatore’ © Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

Arturo Chacón Cruz has sung over 60 roles in 30 countries during his career, including those of Rodolfo in La bohème and the Duke of Mantua in Verdi’s Rigoletto for San Francisco Opera. Other performances include those of Manrico and the title role in Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffmann in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Oronte in Verdi’s I Lombardi in Monte-Carlo, Jacopo Foscari in Verdi’s I due Foscari in Paris, as well as one of his signature roles, the title role in Massenet’s Werther at the State Opera in Stuttgart.  Upcoming performances this season include those of des Grieux in Manon in Tenerife, Riccardo in Verdi’s Un Ballo in Maschera at Teatro Regio di Palma, Gustavo in the same opera at Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona, and Don José in Carmen in  Liege.

Ekaterina Semenchuk as Azucena and Arturo Chacón-Cruz as Manrico in Verdi’s ‘Il trovatore’
© Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

Ekaterina Semenchuk has previously appeared at San Francisco Opera as Federica in Verdi’s Luisa Miller, as Amneris in Aida and as Santuzza in Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana. She is a regular guest at the Salzburg Festival and has also performed on stages of opera houses such as the Metropolitan Opera, Los Angeles Opera, Opéra de Bastille in Paris, the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, the Berlin Staatsoper unter den Linden, the the Arena di Verona, the Opera in Rome and Teatro alla Scala Milan. Her wide-ranging repertoire also includes mezzo roles in operas such as Donizetti’s Anna Bolena, Berlioz’s Roméo et Juliette, Bizet’s Carmen, Saint-Saëns’ Samson et Dalila, Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov, Tchaikovsky’s Pique Dame, Prokofiev’s War and Peace and Wagner’s Die Walküre.

George Petean as Count di Luna in Verdi’s ‘Il trovatore’
© Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

George Petean is known for his performances in Verdi operas, and has performed the title roles in Simon Boccanegra with Opera Australia, Macbeth at Wiener Staatsoper and as Giorgio Germont in La traviata at Dutch National Opera. He appeared in numerous roles as a member of the ensemble of the Hamburg Opera between 2002 and 2010, and has also performed as a guest artist in leading opera houses such as Madrid’s Teatro Real, Paris Opéra, Staatsoper Wien, Teatro Regio di Parma, Berlin State Opera and the Metropolitan Opera.

Robert Pomakov as Ferrando with members of the San Francisco Opera Chorus in Verdi’s
‘Il Trovatore’ © Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

Robert Pomakov made his company debut with San Francisco Opera as Monterone in Rigoletto, and later returned to sing Mathieu in Giordano’s Andrea Chénier. In recent seasons he has made house debuts with Opéra National de Paris as the Bonze in Puccini’s Madame Butterfly and with Den Norske Opera as Gremin in Tchaikovsky’s Yevgeny Onegin.

Eun Sun Kim leads the San Francisco Opera Orchestra, Chorus (director John Keene) and soloists in six performances of Verdi’s Il trovatore at the War Memorial Opera House until October 1st. For further information and details of reservations visit the San Francisco Opera website.

Information sourced from:

San Francisco Opera program notes

Angel Blue

Arturo Chacón Cruz

Ekaterina Semenchuk

George Petean

Robert Pomakov

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