Now in its first revival, David Bösch’s production of Il Trovatore relocates Verdi’s great examination of factionalism and infanticide to a modern, if unspecified, war zone. The transposition suggests an intention to take the work seriously rather than treat it as melodrama, and there are, indeed, unsettling scenes involving the humiliation of prisoners by soldiers that resonate with events in recent conflicts.
But the dramaturgy is also slipshod and frequently lacks focus. Di Luna’s army, with its fearsome artillery, is pitted against partisans who are armed with little more than crowbars and seemingly roam the country in the guise of a transvestite circus. Anita Rachvelishvili’s Azucena and Najmiddin Mavlyanov’s Manrico – mother and adoptive son – look the same age. Gábor Bretz’s hunky Ferrando is decades too young to have lived through the backstory he recalls, and the scene in which Leonora (Maria Agresta) mistakes Di Luna (Quinn Kelsey) for Manrico in the dark takes place on a well-lit stage.
Musically, it’s also a mixed bag. Conductor Richard Farnes admirably favours emotional subtlety and fine instrumental shading, but the singing is variable, with the best performances by Rachvelishvili, who is thrillingly intense, and Bretz, who is handsomely stylish. Agresta, clean and clear in lyricism, makes heavy weather of her coloratura. Kelsey is pushed in Il Balen, while Mavlyanov, although pleasant sounding, wanders through it all looking utterly bewildered, as well he might. Dispiriting, all of it.
•In rep at the Royal Opera House, London, until 9 February. Box office: 020-7304 4000.